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Pumpkins One, Two, and Three (and Me)

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Entries in salad (2)


Easy peasy grilled romaine salad.

A few weeks ago we headed over to my brother's and sister-in-law's for dinner.  Nothing fancy--just a few items on the grill and a few sides.  Lucky for us, they live close enough to do this often and as both families like to cook, we enjoy experimenting with recipes.

To go along with the steaks, I brought a couple heads of romaine.  The idea was to make a salad.  But instead of a traditional take, we grilled the romaine.  It was delish!  My SIL Amy tells me she's made it a few times since, as have I.  It's not a full-blown addiction, but as summer approaches, I know this salad will be in heavy rotation around here.

If you like the flavor profile of a Ceasar salad, give this a go.  It's perfect alongside a steak or grilled chicken.  Also, it works just as well indoors on a cast iron pan should a few rainy days separate you from your outdoor grill (like it has in our neck of the woods lately). 

pssst, there is no parmesan in this picture...don't forget the parmesan!

Grilled Romaine

adapted from I'm Just Here for the Food - Alton Brown

  • 4 heads romaine lettuce
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • grated parmesan cheese (for topping)

Clean then quarter or halve the romaine heads lengthwise (depending on the size of your head).  Keep the root intact to keep each piece together.  Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Mix together the capers, mustard, and vinegar.  Grill the romaine on the grill, directly over the heat (indoor grill worked well for me, too).  Turn when it begins to char and wilt--total grill time is about 1 minute.  Remove to serving plates and spoon the vinegar mixture over each and sprinkle with parmesan.  Best served warm.

My notes:  FYI, the original recipe called for the above dressing amount, but for only one romaine head.  I found this dressing to greens ratio far too heavy but admittedly, like my dressing on the light side.




Som Tum (green papaya salad with chilies and lime).

This post is about a family recipe that I pull out consistently when we need to lighten up our plates, which is right about now courtesy of the steady supply of goodie tins from our wonderful neighbors over the holidays.  Have you ever had, or even heard of, the Thai dish called Som Tum?  It's a green papaya salad.  And more importantly, it is light and adaptable and I swear it does something magical to waistlines (just in case you consumed your body weight in chocolate like I did).

I make som tum often for my lunch because I think it's a cinch to throw together.  But I recognize that this is largely due to the countless nearby Asian marts, where I go to buy bags and bags of pre shredded green papaya.  I also have the necessary supplies such as a large, heavy mortar and pestle handy (but if you don't, don't worry, I give you some tips on how to get around it).  If you cannot find pre shredded papaya, you might find an entire green papaya at a large grocery store.  If you buy a whole one, you will need to peel it and shred the flesh--I use a grooved peeler in order to get nice long shreds but in a pinch, you could use a grater (your shreds will just be shorter).

There are countless ways to make som tum, depending on the region from which the recipe hails.  You can add bits of dried shrimp (if you want it briney), or green beans or tomotoes...throw in whatever you want, it is a salad after all.  But I'm going to tell you how I like to make it, which is pretty traditional with one twist--the addition of roasted peanuts.

Som Tum


1-2 (depending on how hot you like it) fresh chilies, serranos are fine

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 shallot, chopped

2 cups of finely shredded green papaya (about 1 small a pinch you can substitute 1 cup cabbage and 1 cup carrot, both finely shredded.  You'll get a similar flavor profile but you'll be on an unauthentic path so don't tell my Thai mother)

1-1 1/2 teaspoon sugar (palm sugar would be even better if you have it)

1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons fish sauce

the juice from 1-2 limes (sorry I can't be precise--start with 1/2 and keep adding until you're happy, then make a note of it.  I usually use about 1 and 1/2 small limes, but I like it sour).

a handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

1/2 cup salted, dry roasted peanuts


Place the peanuts in the bowl of a large, heavy mortar (see note below if you don't have one), and lightly pound to break up the peanuts.  Set aside.  Place the garlic, shallot, and peppers in the mortar and pound and grind until they break down (but not so much they become mushy), scraping down the sides as needed.  Add the shredded papaya a handful at a time, pounding after each addition, until the papaya shreds become limp and soft (3-5 minutes), scraping and mixing as necessary. 

Add the sugar, salt, and fish sauce, pounding a little after each addition.

Add the lime juice and quartered tomatoes, pounding gently.

Taste the "dressing" in the bottom of the mortar and adjust to taste.  You're going for the quintessential balance of Thai flavors--typically, equal parts sour, hot, salty, and sweet, but just adjust it until you're happy.  I like mine heavy on the sour note. 

To serve, use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the salad to a plate and drizzle with some of the remaining sauce.  Garnish with the crushed peanuts.  This serves about 4 for an appetizer or 2 for a decent lunch portion.

Note:  my good friend reports that she has made this salad without a mortar by placing the ingredients in a gallon size heavy-duty ziploc and pounding with a rolling pin.  Sounds good to me, but again, do not tell my mother.