food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

DSC_0011Can you believe I am asking you to grill lettuce? Isn’t that the one vegetable that we can just leave the heck alone? I know it sounds bonkers, but it really is quite something. As different to raw lettuce as microwaved egg is to scrambled in butter. Another level.

grilled lettuce saladI hadn’t heard of grilled lettuce until I saw it in the description of a dish at The Gardener’s Cottage, here in Edinburgh. This beyond-idyllic converted gardener’s cottage, just off the roundabout at London Road and Leith Walk (1 Royal Terrace Gardens, to be precise), has become  known for inventive, seasonal cooking. In fact it is not only seasonal but local. So local that much of what appears on its mismatched plates grows in the enviously-verdant gardens you walk through to enter its calming, uncluttered space. This dish had rosy-pink medallions of venison, sea coriander/plantain, freshly picked broad beans and grilled lettuce. It was stunning, all of it. But the revelation was the lettuce. It tasted of the best – but crunchy – vegetable stock: a bit salty, a bit sweet, a bit edgy and definitely herbal. When I asked how it had been done, our server leaned back into the open kitchen and asked. A smiling “only a bit of oil and the heat of the grill” was the reply. Luckily Mr A also chose this dish so I didn’t have to (grudgingly) sacrifice any tender morsel of this minerally delight. We each gave Miss R the merest of slivers and watched, knowingly, as her eyes lit up like sparklers. The whole meal had us mmming and sighing like we’d never eaten out before.

And so I have started bingeing on grilled lettuce. Plain – with just oil; dunked in vinaigrette and griddled (a bit soggy but delish); and now painted with vinaigrette (how restrained!), griddled quickly and sliced to add into salads. You could even leave them whole and artfully arrange other grilled edibles on top and strew with fresh herbs and flecks of strong cheese, like feta or goats’. But I don’t do artful, so this is what I serve. If you think about it, most of us enjoy grilled vegetables so lettuce is perhaps not such a leap of faith.

I am already dreamily considering  other ways to serve grilled lettuce. I think herby sausages and lentils braised with red wine, bay and rosemary is next on the list. Or perhaps with slow-dried tomatoes and tiny bits of crisped bacon or white beans on sourdough toast – a kind of funky BLT.

What would YOU pair with grilled lettuce?

grilled lettuceDijon-Grilled Gem Lettuce

This Week in 2011: Watermelon and Green Tea Soothie

This Week in 2012: Chermoula and Sardine-stuffed Tomatoes + Chermoula-White Bean Dip

Miss R’s Track of the Week: Wretch 32 ft Jacob Banks “Doing Okay” (one swear word) – positive rap for rap-phobes like myself

File this under “bonkers but brilliant.” You will never look at a head of lettuce in the same way again.

Use firm cos, romaine, gem or little gem lettuces. Round ones could work, maybe even iceberg- cut into thick slices as if they were a loaf of bread – but the longer-head lettuces work a treat. You can keep it ultra-simple by just slicking with oil and griddling/grilling, but the hot edge of Dijon or wholegrain mustard, with the nip of a few drops of vinegar are just too good to forgo. Serve alongside grilled or poached foods, in soup or in salads, such as this nearly store cupboard one. Vegetarians and vegans perhaps grill some mushrooms in place of the fish, or add in some warmed and vinaigretted (new word alert) cooked white beans.

Serves 2 

Griddled Lettuce

2-4 heads  gem lettuce, trimmed and halved lengthways OR 1-2 Romaine or Cos lettuce (amount is up to you – they shrink a bit while cooking)

2 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil

2 tsp cider vinegar or other vinegar (not malt or added-flavour one)

1 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard

1. Whisk together the dressing and paint it over the halved lettuce. Lay the lettuce halves on a hot griddle pan, or directly onto an outdoor grill. Check and flip when char marks appear. Don’t overcook or it will get soggy (but still taste amazing). Sometimes I make a larger amount of dressing and dunk the lettuces in it, shaking to remove excess. This is delicious but a bit wet for good griddling. Make double of the vinaigrette if you are having the salad, below.

Eat immediately or slice and use in the following salad or to add into other salads, or as a mulchy bed for cooked and spiced lentils and sausages (winter idea).

grilled lettuce saladGrilled Lettuce, Potato and Peppered Mackerel Salad

I keep cooked, peppered mackerel in my freezer to use in salads and to make quick pates. Maybe this a particularly British product but I imagine most countries have an equivalent. In Britain the mackerel is filleted and dry-smoked, sometimes with other bits added, like peppercorns or mustard seeds. It is cheap, usually sustainable and a brilliant source of Omega 3 fatty acids. See below for more nutrition information. Anyone who eats fish should include oily fish, like mackerel, at least once a week. Unlike supplements, oily fish is safe and healthy for most adults.

Make this vegan: substitute the mackerel for griddled mushrooms or warmed white beans.

Serves 2, generously (with some leftover for one small lunch portion)

4 heads  gem lettuce OR 2 heads Romaine/Cos

Vinaigrette (as above)

8 new potatoes, cooked in their skins; cooled a bit and cut into bite-sized pieces (leftover potatoes are brilliant)

10-16 baby cornichon, diced (according to taste)

2 whole fillets of peppered mackerel, torn into pieces

10-15 French radishes or round radishes, trimmed and sliced (I used about 20 quite small ones)

Extra vinaigrette, for serving

Extras to add: sliced hard-boiled eggs, cooked, cooled green/fine beans, grated carrot. Anything you fancy, really!

1. Prepare the lettuce as described above and toss lightly with the remaining ingredients, adding more vinaigrette if you like, plus a grind or two of fresh pepper. Serve immediately. Although I am proposing this in summer I look forward to adding this to my repertoire of winter salads too.

Nutrition Notes: Lettuce and mackerel are the stars in this simple recipe. Mackerel is an easy sell, nutrition-wise. Lettuce, not so much. But lettuce has its own little stash of goodies to help keep us well: Vitamins A (this recipe will give you over 100% RDA), K, C, folate, potassium, as well as fibre. People go on about the tryptophan, but there really isn’t enough of it in modern, cultivated lettuce to help us convert it to the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Some people do swear by lettuce soup to help them fall asleep. As for mackerel, it is one of our best sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D (of which there are few) and Vitamin B12, as well as selenium, the B vitamins (not folate), phosphorus, potassium and protein. Omnivores and pescatarians, try and have a serving of oily fish one or two times a week.


I am popping these simple recipes over to Four Seasons Food, hosted by Anneli at Delicieux and Louisa at Chez Foti. This month they want barbecue and side dish salads so this, I think, is pretty spot-on. Over at Credit Crunch Munch – run by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla of Fab Food 4 All – it is all about tasty food on a budget. Grilled lettuce, radishes, mackerel – very cheap to make. This month the roundup is hosted by Sian at Fish Fingers for Tea. And last, but not least, over to the brilliant Mark at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv for his popular and always-interesting Made With Love Mondays. Thanks all for these fabulous showcases for us fellow bloggers. I really appreciate  the behind-the-scenes work these roundups entail. Cheers guys!fsf-summer


42 thoughts on “Grilled Lettuce – on its own, and in a salad with potatoes, cornichon and peppered mackerel

  1. john gumley says:

    Making my mouth water. Sounds delicious

    Vicky Sent from my iPhone

  2. bongcomb says:

    This is so innovative!!!!! I love lettuce but never thought one could grill them..surely trying this one!

  3. Ann says:

    What a brilliant way with lettuce! I fancy it with avocado and crispy bacon_ oh dear, I’m making my mouth water!

    1. Make it! Get thee to Lidl forthwith x

  4. robisaba says:

    cooked lettuce is great! Grilled is cool, wilted or braised as well. If you haven’t tried it yet I also suggest grilled chicory, or also sautéed chicory (works very well with bacon for the non-vegetarians 😉 )

    1. Love grilled chicory – so bitter yet so mmm. Love it with Roquefort and pecans. That’s the luxury end of grilled lettuce, for sure!

  5. petra08 says:

    I love grilled lettuce, it is so different from just using it! I have never tried it with mackerel but it looks delicious!

  6. eastofedencook says:

    I’ve yet to try grilling lettuce at home but your marvelous recipe is so tempting! Our local lettuce season is nine months of the year so I have ample opportunity to indulge in such a scrumptious dinner idea!

    1. Great stuff! I see this as definitely a year-round way to enjoy lettuce. I bet you could think of all kinds of ways to jazz up this idea. Thanks for dropping by, Deb 😀

  7. brianna124 says:

    This sounds amazing! I have always wanted to try grilled lettuce and this might get me to actually do it now!

  8. Chez Foti says:

    Oh this looks fabulous Kellie! The French cook with lettuce quite a bit and I’ve heard the Italians often fry it. I really must try it, your griddled version looks positively addictive!. And I adore your pairing with mackerel (another of my many addictions, which I can sometimes source in France!), radish, cornichons and potatoes. In fact I would say it all sounds very French to me. Wonderful. And thanks so much for entering this month’s Four Seasons Food challenge, it certainly would be a fine barbie side!

    1. I thought it seemed French but daren’t suggest it unless someone said otherwise. Yay! I must have been channeling my love of France when I thought of this. Thanks for your kind comment. I bet saucisson might be nice with this too (not with the mackerel perhaps!), but not very bbq-ey.

  9. narf77 says:

    Sorry, not a rap fan BUT this lettuce does make up for it. I haven’t ever tried to grill it but am going to tuck it away in the “must try” folder for our coming summer. The great thing about being in the Southern Hemisphere is that we can take note of all of the foodie trends that are on the up and store them away till we get our chance (and the ingredients) to tart them up in our own summer :).

    1. Oh, but I will be firing up the griddle pan in deepest winter and will probs do as commenter Robisba suggests and try this with wintry, sharp chicory or endive. We gte lettuce year-round so this would cheer me up when ‘normal’ salads seem wrong.

      1. narf77 says:

        I tend to migrate over to the full veg side in winter. As a vegan I am pretty much veg intensive as it is but it just seems right to stick with bulking up the more carb rich veg in winter. Lettuce is a winter crop here as much as it is a summer crop. It actually grows better because it doesn’t go to seed quite so rapidly :).

  10. emmycooks says:

    I love grilled lettuce. I grill it dry so the edges crisp and there is no chance of getting soggy, then dress it after. One of my favorite combinations is anchovy vinaigrette, great tomatoes, and homemade croutons (grill those too!).

    1. Good tips! I may try dry next time. Assuming with a lower heat? The anchovy vinaigrette sounds right up my street. Thank you

      1. emmycooks says:

        I actually use high heat so the edges brown quickly, leaving some juicy crunch in the ribs. If I cut a medium -sized head of romaine in quarters or a large head in sixths, I find that each piece gets done the way I like. Now I am going to have to go fire up the grill!

      2. Thanks for the advice. It sounds like you are a pro lettuce griller! What do you like with it Emmy?

      3. emmycooks says:

        I’m no pro, but I like this dish enough that it’s a regular summer salad. Next time I think I’m going to like it with potatoes, cornichons and smoked fish! 🙂

  11. This is such a great summer idea! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Urvashi Roe says:

    Love grilled lettuce. Works very well in risotto. It’s too hot for that right now so I would have on it’s own with a mustard dressing I think

    1. Yes, risotto doesn’t appeal just yet but I can see it would be good in it. I’m sure in the dim and distant past I have sauteed old lettuce for this purpose! Sauteed radicchioi, for sure. I hope it starts cooling off for you soon. We are back down to comfortable lower 20s.

  13. Shannon says:

    As soon as I’m back to the grill in a couple of months, I will soooo try this! Hope you’re having a tremendous summer, Kellie.

    1. You too. When do you return to your home & shiny new kitchen?

      1. Shannon says:

        Not for a while yet. Maybe end of September. Just in time for relief from Texas heat and more time for the charcoal grill on the back porch.

  14. Reblogged this on Sammi Says….

  15. lizzygoodthings says:

    Ooooooh, Kellie, I do love the sound of this one!

  16. what a FABULOUS idea – Will definitely try this along with some beetroot and grilled courgette ribbons too.. How delicious for summer (and wintertime too)
    India Alexandra xo

  17. I never thought about grilling lettuce before, but what a great idea! The salad looks so delicious!

  18. Love the grilled lettuce, Kellie! A little while back, I remember seeing grilled Romaine lettuce – which sounded fantastic – but I especially love the idea of creating a tasty BLT salad. Such a versatile ingredient and so simple to do!

  19. Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand says:

    Grilled lettuce is something I haven’t tried at home but you are giving me lots of idea – I bet the smokey taste works really well. I’m a big fan of mackerel and this peppered mackerel dish looks so inviting Kellie – it’s such an underrated fish. There’s a nice dish that Nigel Slater does with mackerel, new potatoes, grilled bacon in a dill , caper and mustard dressing – it really is the business too 🙂

  20. aliyajade says:

    I love cooked lettuce-so yummy. I love it with poached chicken and basil oil dressing. Also great braised in stock. Beautiful photos as well

    1. Sounds really delicious! Basil oil dressing mmm

  21. Grilled lettuce has been on my list to try for some time-you make me want to fire up the grill ASAP! Can’t say I’ve ever tried mackerel, but I I’d see two of them swimming around in the aquarium last weekend. Delicious salad Kellie!

    1. Thanks EA. Maybe you should have got Big Tex to drop a line in the tank! Just kidding 😀 Flaked hot-smoked salmon would be beautiful, or just the grilled lettuce with vinaigrette as a side dish. You will LOVE this way with lettuce

  22. marinki says:

    Reblogged this on Marinki's Blog and commented:
    Terdengar aneh ya, ada sayur panggang? Tapi untuk yang ingin menghindarkan kelebihan minyak goreng, boleh dicoba lho. Rasanya enak, dan bau harum sayuran terasa lebih menggugah selera bersantap.. hmm..

  23. kathrinjapan says:

    Doing it!

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