Grilling Lettuce ~ light it up!

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Technically, it is Spring; however, with all the warm weather we are having down here in the South ~ it sure feels like Summer!

And with warm weather comes the natural desire to keep the kitchen cool and break out the Weber on the patio. I was reminded while in Italy last week, that lettuce isn’t only the cold, crisp dish we Americans tend to serve alongside our entree. In Italy, lettuce is also sauteed, boiled, or grilled. Yes ~ grilled.

Here is my version of “Grilled Romaine hearts with Gorgonzola” dressing ~ a combination of Gorgonzola, yogurt, fresh garden basil and toasted pecans comes together to make sure this recipe will be easy to make at the beach, lake, family picnic or anywhere else you find yourself with the grill fired up this summer.

And if you are a little short on charcoal or the heat outside is just too much to take, no worries! This recipe can be quickly prepared stovetop with a grill pan—as in the cooking video.

Here is an early taste of summer in the middle of “Spring!”

Buon Appetito~


Grilled Romaine Hearts with Gorgonzola, Yogurt & Pecans

For the dressing:

3 ounces (3/4 cup) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, using a fork, mash together the Gorgonzola and yogurt until a creamy, but still lumpy, dressing is formed. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper until well mixed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes approximately 3/4 cup dressing.

For the Romaine:

6 Romaine hearts

1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

For garnish:

1/2 cup Fancy Pecan halves, toasted, then roughly chopped

Remove any bruised or wilted outside leaves of the Romaine hearts. Cut each heart lengthwise in half from the tip through the core, making sure to leave the core attached – the core holds the leaves of each half together. Place the heart halves into a large bowl of water, plunging up and down several times to rinse off the hearts. Dry the hearts completely with a kitchen towel or paper towels and place on a platter. Lightly brush the outside and cut side of each Romaine heart with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat or heat an outdoor grill. When hot, place the seasoned hearts on the grill, in batches if necessary, and grill until the outer leaves start to wilt and get grill marks on them.  Using tongs, turn the hearts over as they cook to grill both sides of the hearts. The hearts will grill relatively quickly depending on the heat of the grill, so keep an eye on them to prevent burning.

Place the grilled hearts on a platter, cut-side up, drizzling the dressing over the hearts. Garnish the dressed hearts with chopped pecans. Serve while the hearts are still warm from the grill or at room temperature.

Serves 6 as an entrée-sized salad, 12 as a side salad.


About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.