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8 & $20: Caesar Salad with Salmon and Grilled Romaine

Charred greens add complexity to a classic salad, paired with a clean Vinho Verde
A light-bodied Vinho Verde was able to handle the citrusy dressing, the pleasant bitterness of grilled greens and the richness of the salmon.
Photo by: Julie Harans
A light-bodied Vinho Verde was able to handle the citrusy dressing, the pleasant bitterness of grilled greens and the richness of the salmon.

Julie Harans
Posted: August 28, 2018

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

A few months into grilling season, if you've slipped into the monotony of hamburgers and hot dogs, it’s time to switch it up. There’s so much produce that can benefit from that smoky, charred taste—like stone fruits, herbs and yes, even lettuce.

This twist on a classic Caesar salad is a great vehicle for grilled greens. Romaine is hearty enough to stand up to the heat, and the pleasant bitterness is the ideal foil for buttery salmon and a bright, acidic dressing.

The trick to achieving creamy, glossy dressing like a pro is successfully creating an emulsion, which means combining two otherwise incompatible liquids, such as oil and water. So when you stream in the oil to finish the dressing, start extremely slowly—drop by drop is best—while you whisk.

This is a pretty foolproof recipe, but there is one enemy here: wilting. To avoid a plate of limp lettuce, let the salmon rest after it roasts so that it is just cool upon serving, and refrain from using more than a quick burst of cooking spray when grilling your lettuce. Unlike the alternative method of brushing oil on the grill or the greens, the spray evenly distributes a thin layer of oil, keeping the greens crisp while achieving the desired char.

Caesar dressing combines a lot of bold flavors, so I looked for a wine that would enhance these without clashing. An Italian Verdicchio came across as too creamy with the fattiness of the salmon, and a South African Chenin Blanc lent too much acidity to the already lemony dish. A lighter-bodied Portuguese Vinho Verde did the trick. Its clean minerality and moderate acidity balanced the richness of the fish, and the lightly fruity, tropical flavors offset the grilled greens’ bitterness to round out the dish. I also found that the notes of pineapple and peach brought out the salmon’s subtle sweetness, which is one of my favorite things about this ingredient.

Tip: If you have some not-so-fresh bread that needs to be used up, toast it in the oven for a few minutes with a sprinkle of olive oil and crumble it into croutons.

Caesar Salad with Salmon and Grilled Romaine


Pair with a clean, minerally white such as Aveleda Loureiro-Alvarinho Vinho Verde Quinta da Aveleda 2017 (86 points, $10).


Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Approximate food costs: $40

  • Two 1-pound salmon fillets
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 lemons (1 1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into thin slices for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 romaine hearts
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt
  • Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 475° F. Place the salmon on a baking sheet and lightly coat both sides with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes until the fish easily flakes with a fork. Let it rest while you prepare the salad.

2. To make the dressing: Mash the peeled garlic cloves on a cutting board with the side of a knife, then chop together with anchovies and a pinch of salt until the mixture resembles a paste. Place in a medium bowl and add egg yolks, the juice of 1 1/2 lemons, and mustard. Whisk to combine.

3. While whisking, gradually stream in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, then slowly stream in vegetable oil, continuing to whisk until the dressing thickens. Stir in Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Slice the romaine hearts lengthwise. Heat a grill or a non-stick grill pan to high. If you’re using a grill pan, make sure the surface is hot enough—let it preheat for 5 minutes. Give the pan a quick spray of cooking spray right before grilling so the oil doesn’t burn, and grill the romaine, cut-side down, for 30 to 45 seconds. Press the hearts down as they cook to ensure a dark char.

5. For each serving, place a halved romaine heart cut-side up and top with salmon, flaked into pieces with a fork. Drizzle with dressing and garnish with sliced lemon. Serves 4.

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