{recipe} Grilled Caesar Salad

On a recent trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico, we ate at a fantastic little restaurant called El Quenepo. I loved their grilled caesar salad and thought that while the dish was fresh in my mind, I’d try making a version at home. Grilling the romaine hearts adds a fantastic layer of smoky complexity that compliments the strong flavors of the dressing.

Vieques is a notoriously, unabashedly casual place, and El Quenepo is probably the “fanciest” restaurant on the whole island. I say that in quotes because, well, nothing on Vieques could remotely be referred to as fancy- we’re talking about a restaurant with a hand-painted sign and no glass in the window frames. Still, it’s an utterly charming place with a laid-back island aesthetic and an adventurous, sophisticated fusion menu. The owners are a young couple from Virginia who encourage local farmers on Vieques to grow food for use in the restaurant, which is a real treat in the Caribbean, where most folks don’t emphasize the importance of eating locally. If you find yourself in Vieques, I highly encourage you to head to the Malecón in Esperanza and give El Quenepo a try.

A few notes about the recipe:

  1. This would work better on a BBQ grill, but alas, I don’t have one, so I used a grill pan, which worked just fine.
  2. For the bread for the croutons, you can really use anything. I used sliced sourdough that had gone a bit stale.
  3. If you’re uncomfortable using a raw egg yolk, you can leave it out.
  4. If you prefer your caesar with anchovies, you can add 3 to the dressing and/or you can place them on top of the salad when you plate it!

Grilled Caesar Salad

serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a side.


  • 1-2 slices bread
  • garlic salt to taste
  • 3/4 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino cheese
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 raw egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tblsp slivered almonds
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 small heads of romaine
  • extra olive oil for grilling and toasting


  • Make the croutons: Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a non-stick saute pan (at least a couple tablespoons). Add bread cubes and a healthy sprinkle of garlic salt to the oil. The bread will quickly soak up the oil. Add more as needed (don’t be afraid you’re adding too much because in this case there’s practically no such thing.) Taste and add more garlic salt as necessary. Cook bread cubes until toasty on all sides, flipping often. Remove to bowl and set aside.
  • Make the dressing: Put cheese, lemon juice, garlic, yolk, oil, almonds, and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Blend until thick and creamy, scraping down sides in between. Set aside.
  • Grill the romaine: Cut the romaine lengthwise, leaving the hard connector part on the bottom intact (you’ll remove it later.) Heat a grill or grill pan to very very hot. Brush the cut side of the romaine with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Press the cut side onto the grill or pan, checking every 5-10 seconds (it will cook very quickly.) You don’t want the lettuce to wilt too much, just to get the cut side smoky and grilled.
  • Assembly: Place romaine on plate and sprinkle croutons around. Drizzle dressing over.

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