Sear your Salad

Why load slabs of meat on your Weber when grilled greens are so much hotter.

The food trend burning up this season is, in fact, sizzling: Fresh-off-the-grill greens are popping up on the menus of tastemaking restaurants across the country, and they deserve a spot-on healthy home barbecue too. Chefs love flame-cooked greens for the extra dimension they add to standard salads. They're also nutritionist approved: A side of crispy, charred kale might be the healthiest thing to hit grilling season since the veggie burger.

“Greens are great on the grill,” explains Shanna Pacifico, chef at Back Forty West in New York City. “It's a really quick and easy way to add deep, smoky flavor and crispy texture to these vegetables, which are usually served raw or just gently cooked.” Kale, escarole, mustard greens, bok choy and romaine hearts all top Pacifico’s list of grill-‘em greens.

A few tips for firing up your leafy greens: First, be sure to toss the lightly-oiled greens onto a hot grill (about the same temperature you’d use to grill a steak) and watch carefully. “You want them just slightly charred in spots, not black all over,” says Pacifico. Don’t overcrowd the grill, which could cause leaves to steam rather than char. Once they’re perfectly blackened, let greens cool in a single layer, not in a stack, to maximize crispiness.

Fire up the grill to try Pacifico’s grilled kale salad, a crowd-favorite at Back Forty West that’s a take on a Caesar salad: Grilled kale stands in for romaine lettuce, fresh Spanish anchovies (called “boquerones”) add protein, and chickpeas replace the typical croutons:

Grilled Tuscan Kale Salad with White Spanish Anchovies

Grilled Tuscan Kale Salad with White Spanish Anchovies
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 large clove garlic
1 c. grapeseed oil
½ c. grated Parmesan
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
a couple dashes of Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper
1 c. chickpeas
6 white Spanish anchovies (optional)
2 bunches of Tuscan kale

Directions:

Dressing:
1. In a food processor, pulse egg yolk, mustard, lemon and garlic until well combined. 
2. With motor running, add oil in a slow, steady stream. 
3. Add the Parmesan, Worcestershire, and Tabasco and puree until smooth. If the dressing is too thick, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve a loose, creamy consistency. 
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Store dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

Salad:
1. Lightly brush kale leaves with olive oil.
2. Place on a hot grill and grill until charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
3. Let cool, roughly tear, and toss with some dressing. Top salad with a bit more shaved Parmesan, chickpeas, and anchovies if desired.