How to make a Caesar salad from odds and ends in your fridge

grilled Caesar salad Jim Norton

When you have a hankering for a nice Caesar salad but the lettuce is limp and you’re out of the makings for a proper dressing, you might just be able to squeeze something delicious out of what you have on hand. Obviously we’re going to suggest something wacky here, but stay with us. Put on your jacket and boots and head outside to the barbecue because you’re going to grill that droopy lettuce. A light char can rescue a sad head of romaine—a touch of caramelization, a nice smoky flavour—and turn this otherwise predictable salad a little bit on its head. And the weirdo dressing is an excellent stand-in for the real deal.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Grilled Caesar Salad with Sorta-Caesar Dressing

3 tbsp olive oil
4 slices bread, 1/2-inch thick (about 2 cups, once cubed)
Salt and pepper
2 whole heads romaine lettuce, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (optional)
1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Sorta-Caesar Dressing (see below)

1.  Preheat grill to medium.
2. To make croutons, brush the slices of bread (use baguette or whatever bread or buns you have—a mixture is fine too) on both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Toast slices on preheated grill until browned and crisp on both sides. Remove from the grill, and cut into cubes.
3. Brush the cut sides of the lettuce heads with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut-side-down on the grill, and cook until slightly charred, about 2-3 minutes, on the cut side only—don’t turn over.
4. Remove lettuce to a cutting board, roughly chop, and place in a bowl, or serve as whole heads. Add the toasted bread cubes and bacon, if you’re using it. Drizzle with Sorta-Caesar Dressing, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Toss well. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm-ish. 

Sorta-Caesar Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp dill pickle juice
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the first four ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 TIP You have our permission to mess with the salad ingredients by adding stuff that doesn’t normally make its way into a Caesar salad: avocado (why not?); hard-boiled egg (of course!); one lonely portobello mushroom (grill it!); chicken breast (hello, lunch). This is the cottage. There are no rules.

Try a new party favourite: Caesar salad skewers

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