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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Putting Romaine Lettuce's Feet to the Fire

Going out to eat has many pleasures, not the least of which is learning a new trick to add to your own repertoire at home.

Last year, we had dinner at the charming Barbrix (242 Hyperion Avenue, Silver Lake 90027, 323/662-2442) where we discovered charmoula sauce. Easy to make, I promptly put it to use in my own kitchen flavoring fish, chicken, and vegetables.

Recently at Il Fornaio, during the Lazio Regionale, we had Lattuga Romana alla Griglia or lightly grilled hearts of romaine topped with shaved pecorino pepato and Il Fornaio's creamy house dressing. The rest of the menu was terrific, but the real stand out was the deceptively simple grilled hearts of romaine.

The dish is easy to make at home. So easy, in fact, you can serve it on the spur of the moment because it takes barely fifteen minutes to prepare.

Grilled Hearts of Romaine

If you can buy your romaine from a farmers' market, all the better to ensure freshness. At the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market we buy ours from Gloria's Fruits and Vegetables. At the Sunday Palisades Market, John of Sweredoski Farms sells large, well-formed lettuces.

Romaine will keep fresh in the refrigerator for a week or more when wrapped in a damp cloth kitchen towel and placed in a plastic bag.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 large romaine lettuces
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices pecornio pepato or pecorino Romano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Peal off the 4-5 outer leaves of each romaine and discard. With a sharp paring knife, cut off the end of the stem so it's even with the remaining leaves. Wash the inside of the leaves to remove grit, being careful to leave them attached to the stem. Shake off excess water.

Using a sharp knife, cut each romaine the long way. Then cut each half again so one romaine makes 4 sections that look like long watermelon slices.

Heat a bbq grill or preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Pour the olive oil on a flat plate and season with sea salt and pepper. Dredge all sides of each romaine section in the seasoned olive oil and place on the grill for 3-4 minutes or put on an aluminum lined roasting pan and place in the oven. Turn over and continue cooking another 3-4 minutes or until the top edges of the cut side of the romaine are browned.

Remove from the oven. Place on a serving plate. Lay a thin slice of pecorino along the length of each piece of romaine. Everyone will need knives and forks. Serve warm.

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