Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seared Romaine Halves with Chunky Avocado Dressing

Cuban dinner with pork chops, plantain mash & seared romaine
Served with Cuban pork chops & plantain
Instead of serving an everyday tossed salad or cooked vegetable side dish, try this unusual take on romaine lettuce. It only takes a few minutes under the broiler--and you can also sear the romaine halves on a grill, which will leave attractive grill marks across the cut half (place the cut side down perpendicular to the grill grate).

The chunky avocado dressing with diced tomato garnish adds complementary color and flavor to the seared romaine, making this a festive accompaniment to Mexican, Cuban or other Latin American entrees. You can also serve the chunky avocado dressing on regular green salads, with steamed or grilled vegetables, or as a topping for fish, roast chicken, or grilled pork chops. I make the dressing by vigorously shaking together the ingredients in a mason jar for a few second until everything is thoroughly combined.

Plan on half a romaine heart per person (one heart of romaine serves two), and simply multiply the recipe to serve 4 or 6, etc.  If you start with a full head of romaine lettuce instead of a trimmed heart of romaine, simply trim the large, dark, loose outer leaves (reserve for another use) from the head and use only the lighter, "tighter" heart.

avocado dressing
Chunky Avocado Dressing
1 heart of romaine
1 Hass avocado, peeled, seeded & diced
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice OR bottled bitter orange juice ("naranja agria," found in the Mexican/Latino section of supermarkets or at ethnic groceries)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra oil for the romaine
1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded & finely diced
1 1/2 Tbs onion, finely minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
Garnish: 1 small tomato, de-seeded & diced

To make the dressing, place the avocado, juice, 1/4 cup oil, cucumber, onion and salt & pepper to taste in a lidded jar, close and shake to combine. If you prefer, you can instead whisk together all ingredients except the avocado in a bowl, and then stir in the avocado. Refrigerate until ready to use (the dressing will keep for 2 or 3 days in a sealed, refrigerated container).

chunky avocado dressing
Chunky Avocado Dressing
To prepare the seared romaine, carefully wash the romaine heart (try not to separate the leaves too much or else they won't hold together as well when you cut in half), gently shake off as much water as possible and pat dry with paper towels. Use a very sharp knife to slice a thin sliver off the bottom to remove any discoloration, being careful to keep the core intact. Carefully slice the heart in half lengthwise and separate the two halves. Lightly drizzle both sides of each half with olive oil, using your fingers to gently spread the oil all over. Place each half cut-side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper to taste. Move an oven rack to the second-from-the-top rungs, place the baking sheet on that rack and broil for a few minutes, just until the romaine halves begin to sear, rotating the sheet once during the broiling time.  Remove from oven, carefully place each seared romaine half on its serving dish, spoon some chunky avocado dressing over each half, top with some diced tomato, and serve.

 Zestfully yours,

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