Packaged Romaine lettuce. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID HAMMOND
Rome is the namesake for Romaine lettuce, which likely originated further east. You frequently see Romaine in Middle Eastern cuisine; it was introduced to Western Europe through Rome.
Romaine’s Roman provenance may be why Caesar Cardini first used it in Caesar salad. Romaine is also used in Passover Seders as a bitter herb, though much Romaine now seems engineered to minimize bitterness and maximize sweetness.
Somewhat surprisingly, given its lightweight appearance, Romaine lettuce is almost 20-percent protein, containing all eight amino acids. It’s also very high in omega-3 fatty acids, though fat is another one of the last things you’d associate with lettuce. Less surprising, as with many leafy greens, Romaine is high in beta-carotenes.
The Romaine lettuce you might see at your local farmers’ market many times seems to be a different breed than what you see at your local grocery store. At the grocery store, though the prices may be lower, the Romaine lettuce seems less green and quite uniform, tightly bundled as though engineered to meet the precise production line specifications of the bag it’s packed in.
We like to grill Romaine, and the grocery store stuff in the bag actually works just fine: the lack of floppy leaves seems to make it less likely to burn, and the relative sweetness of the store-bought leaf caramelizes nicely.
1. Clean and cut whole Romaine heads in half (don’t remove the fibrous bottom, which will hold the head together during grilling)
2. Brush with olive oil, then place cut-side down on the grill; when the surface becomes lightly caramelized, flip and quickly cook the other side
3. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve