This salad perfectly bridges the gap between summer and fall. Instead of treating romaine with kid gloves, we dial up the heat and grill it. The result is a smoky, robust, and delicious salad that works equally well for a summer barbecue or a autumnal dinner. The cashew dressing provides a rich, herbal, and piquant counterbalance to the charred and bittersweet lettuce.
3 whole compact heads romaine lettuce, rinsed under water, and gently patted dry
Extra virgin oil
Juice of 1 lime
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cashews, soaked overnight in 1 cup cold water
½ bunch cilantro stems and leaves, washed and patted dry
1 small hot green chile, stem removed (or to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
First, prepare the cashew cream. Drain the cashews, then place in a blender with 1 cup cool water, the cilantro, lime juice, green chile, and ½ tsp salt.
Blend at high speed till the mixture forms a pale green puree. Add more water as needed to form a pourable sauce about the thickness of heavy cream. Check for seasoning and add salt or lime juice as needed. Set aside until you’re ready to serve.
Using a large knife, cut the heads of lettuce in half lengthwise through the root.
Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over high heat. If using a grill, prepare your coals for direct, high-heat cooking.
Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the cut surface of the romaine with olive oil.
Place the lettuce cut-side-down on the grill pan (or on the grill grate, if you’re using a grill). Cook till the cut side of the lettuce is beautifully crosshatched with grill marks. Turn the lettuce over and cook briefly on the other side, just to slightly wilt the leaves.
Transfer the lettuce halves to a wide platter. Drizzle sparingly with lime juice, then sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle the cashew dressing liberally over the salad.
Serve while still warm with a cruet of the dressing on the side.