Spring is clean up time. No matter where home is, we brush off something — dust from shelves or grimy remains of (so much) snowfall. While wiping the shmutz from dark corners, we mind what’s inside by eating fresh and clean. For starters, scrub down the grill and mark some lettuce — escarole to be exact.
“Try to buy lettuce in whole heads,” Michael says. “The heartier the better, and make sure you cut thick enough on the vein so it holds together. It doesn’t take much time on the grill to get it where you want it — just wilted enough with some good marks, smokey flavor, and still with a nice firm texture.”
It’s always smart if you can to position your grill in a spot with great ventilation, and give yourself some good clearance on all sides. If you’re on wood, you want to light it at least an hour beforehand to get it up to temperature. Watch your fire and use a thermometer — add wood when necessary and have a spray bottle handy for flare ups. Michael has both an indoor wood grill at home like many of our restaurants, as well as a Lynx gas grill outside — it requires less planning with great results. Always clean your grill after you’re done eating, not cooking. Elbow grease with a good brush will do and even a bowl of soapy water with a stainless steel scrubber.
When grilling with lettuce, drizzle liberally with olive oil and season, then use tongs to mark each side of your “steaks”. Here’s how we serve escarole as a side at Amara at Paraiso, but this is more of a roadmap for running with it, than a recipe. You can substitute radicchio, endive, romaine — whatever combination you like. Same goes for the chile and hard to semi-hard cheese. Just not the lemon, please! It would make a great entrée salad with grilled shrimp.
Grilled Escarole with Idiazabal, chile, lemon
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced
2 heads escarole, cleaned and split
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 lemons, split in half
1/4 cup shaved Idiazabal cheese
Pre-heat the grill to high. When hot, brush the grill grates with a wire brush, then rub with a paper towel blotted with vegetable oil.
Place small saucepan on the grill and add 1/2 cup of the oil and the chiles. Warm through until the oil begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Drizzle escarole heads with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on open grill, cut side down with the lemon halves. Grill escarole and lemon for 3-5 minutes, without turning. Watch the lettuce in particular — you just want it wilted enough with some good marks for smokey flavor, but still with a nice firm texture. Pull off onto a cutting board and cut each piece in half. Dress on the board or platter you plan to serve on, spooning the chile oil and topping with shaved cheese. Enjoy with grilled lemon on the side to squeeze.