Grilled Romaine with Strawberries, Seeds, and Feta Dressing [CYOB]

 Packed with protein and healthy fats, this salad is going to refresh your sad desk lunch, be the centerpiece at your first garden party, or be a delicious dinner for two you can look forward to after a long day.


Packed with protein and healthy fats, this salad is going to refresh your sad desk lunch, be the centerpiece at your first garden party, or be a delicious dinner for two you can look forward to after a long day.

Create Your Own Bite #35

Grilled Romaine Salad with Strawberries, Seeds, and Lemon Feta Dressing

For Grilled Salad (2 Servings)

1 Heart of Romaine

1/3 Cup Strawberries, Roughly Chopped

2 Teaspoon Sunflower Seeds

For Lemon Feta Dressing (2 Servings)

1 Tablespoon Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

1 Tablespoon Fat-Free Feta, Crumbled

1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice

Drizzle of Honey

Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Estimated Calories: 45 Per Serving

The extraordinarily warm, summery Saturday we had this weekend was a much-needed reminder that the extraordinarily cold, miserable winter we’ve been enduring is really and truly coming to an end. Fruit from the farmer’s market tasted fresh and sweet, and for a few brief minutes, I was able to sit in the courtyard at Borough Hall, my scarf and sweatshirt in a pile beside me and my sunglasses slipping down the bridge of my nose.

I haven’t been cooking a lot lately – like the season, things have been busy and my life is most certainly in a state of flux. I’ve been sticking to quick, easy stand-bys (Cauliflower, Spaghetti Squash, pre-made Carrot Ginger Soup from Whole Foods) and drinking an awful lot of bottled green juices while zigzagging up and down Manhattan.

Fortunately, this weekend was lovely and quiet – and as I contemplated my next LWB post, I realized I needed to whip out the cutting board, and get into the spring spirit.

This grilled salad combines all of the best parts of the season into one easy appetizer, light lunch, or a meal for two tucked inside a picnic basket for an early dinner at Prospect Park. It’s easy to prepare, filling, and packed with all the flavors this season is best known for. The smoky, charred aftertaste from the grill; the sweet, cool juice of fresh strawberries; nutty, crunchy accents from sunflowers’ first seeds. Complemented by the bright, tangy lemon-feta dressing, this salad is the perfect way to celebrate the return of long, bright days, leisurely lunch breaks in Bryant Park, and weekend getaways.

While I prepared this salad in my open oven, you can easily (and should, if the option is available) prepare this entire meal on a grill top or miniature George Foreman.

Grilling your greens gives them a rich, smoky depth. Try endive or radicchio for a slightly more bitter profile.

Grilling your greens gives them a rich, smoky depth. Try endive or radicchio for a slightly more bitter profile.

Halve the romaine heart, making sure to keep the core, and a bit of stem, intact. Spritz the cut-sides with a bit of olive oil, or a very modest brush of melted light butter.

Lay face down directly on your oven’s lowest rack, or directly on the grilltop – cook at 350 degrees for no more than 5 minutes. Flip carefully, and allow the lettuce to cook for an additional 2 or 3 minutes. You want the leaves to be just browning on the edges – perhaps a sear mark or two crossing the heart – but you want to make sure to pull from the heat before all of the water has been cooked out.

Set aside the lettuce, and begin preparing the dressing. Simply combine the greek yogurt and feta together in a mixing bowl, mashing the crumbles until they are almost completely incorporated into the greek yogurt. Personally, I prefer this dressing when a few small crumbles remain, for that extra tangy bite. Stir in the lemon juice (a quick squeeze from half a lemon will suffice) and add in fresh cracked sea salt and pepper to taste. The honey is optional – I love the way the sweet clover honey accents the tart lemon and feta cheese. But a quick drizzle – absolutely no more than 1/4 teaspoon – is more than enough to pull this off. Some may find the sweetness from the grilled lettuce and strawberries is already in balance with the dressing.

Oil-free, fat-free, and indulgently creamy - you'd never guess this light, healthful dressing has only a fraction of the calories you might find in even the thinnest table vinaigrette.

Oil-free, fat-free, and indulgently creamy – you’d never guess this light, healthful dressing has only a fraction of the calories you might find in even the thinnest table vinaigrette.

Plate this salad with the romaine heart cut-side up. Top each with half the fresh strawberries,1 teaspoon of seeds, and half the dressing. Finish with another sprinkle of fresh-cracked pepper, and serve with a wedge of lemon.

The recipe that inspired this dish (from La Fuji Mama) called for endive halves, rather than romaine lettuce. Give this a try for a more bitter variation, and get creative with toppings: Quickly sauteed grapes would work as a perfect substitute for strawberries, and chopped pistachios or pepitas could easily be put in place of the sunflower seeds.

Finish your plate with a drizzle of balsamic, or a sprinkling of fresh lemon zest. Use satsuma oranges instead of lemon in your dressing, and mix in fresh-chopped thyme. It’s a fantastic dish for customizing to your personal preferences, and for what looks best at the market each morning.

Could there be a better match for this cheerful spring salad than my tropical birds of paradise plate? I think not! Check out the recipe that inspired it all La Fuji Mama.

Could there be a better match for this cheerful spring salad than my tropical birds of paradise plate? I think not! Check out the recipe that inspired it all La Fuji Mama.

Until next time, enjoy the sunshine!

-Melanie

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