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Grilled Caesar Salad with Crispy Capers and Vegetarian Caesar Dressing

Chef Owen May and Dr. Michelle May


During summer grilling season, don’t leave your salads in the cold! Grilled romaine lettuce is a surprisingly delicious twist that makes this Grilled Romaine Salad with Crispy Capers and Vegetarian Caesar Dressing perfect for summer holiday barbecues.

For this version, I wanted to try to make a homemade Caesar dressing but since our daughter is a vegetarian, I substituted capers for anchovies to make a Vegetarian Caesar Dressing. I loved the results so much that I used leftover dressing for my obviously non-vegetarian Caesar Salad with Chicken for lunch the next day!

In place of croutons, we made deep fried Crispy Capers for a savory crunch! Of course you can add croutons too if you like.

The first time I made this salad, I chopped the Romaine after it was grilled and tossed everything together. However, the charred lettuce gave the tossed salad an unattractive (though still delicious) brownish look. Now I prefer to garnish the split Romaine on a plate because it creates an impressive presentation that is nice enough for a dinner party!

Chef Notes

How to make Crispy Capers

Place 2 tablespoons of capers on a paper towel to drain; pat dry. Heat a small frying pan on medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat until very hot. Carefully place the dry capers into the hot oil. Watch carefully and stir occasionally. Cook until most of the buds begin to open and capers become crisp. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.

The oil you cooked the capers in is now deeply flavored! Allow the Caper Oil to cool completely then store in the refrigerator for use in dressings, marinades, roasted vegetables, and sauteing. If desired, you may replace 2 of the tablespoons of vegetable oil with this Caper Oil in this Vegetarian Caesar Dressing recipe.

Health Notes

Pregnant women should not consume this Caesar Dressing because it contains a raw egg yolk. Pregnant women are significantly more vulnerable to the effects of foodborne illness, including salmonella.

Number of Servings: 8


Vegetarian Caesar Dressing

2 tablespoons of capers
1 large garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons of vegetable oil (may partially substitute with Caper Oil; see Chef’s notes)
3 tablespoons Parmesan, finely grated (additional for garnish if desired)

Crispy Capers

2 tablespoons of capers
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (see Chef’s notes)

Grilled Romaine

4 heads of romaine lettuce, split in half lengthwise
Vegetable oil for brushing


Vegetarian Caesar Dressing

  1. Mound capers, garlic, and salt on a cutting board. Using the side of a chef’s knife, mash and chop until well combined, then continue to work mixture, holding knife blade at an angle, until a paste forms.
  2. Whisk egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisking continuously, drizzle a few drops of oil into yolk mixture. Continue to whisk slowly until mixture appears slightly thickened and glossy. Gradually whisk in a total of 6 tablespoons of oil in a slow, steady stream until all oil has been used and mixture looks like heavy cream.
  4. Add caper mixture and Parmesan and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, if needed.

Grilled Romaine

  1. Heat grill to medium high heat.
  2. Brush cut side of romaine lightly with oil.
  3. Place romaine cut side down on hot grill with cover closed until edges appear slightly charred (about 5 minutes).
  4. Turn romaine over and grill leaf side for about a minute.

Assemble Salads

  1. Place one grilled Romaine half cut side up on a dinner plate.
  2. Drizzle with Caesar Dressing and sprinkle with Crispy Capers. Garnish with additional shaved Parmesan cheese and/or croutons if desired.
  3. For Caesar Salad with Chicken, chop fresh romaine and toss with halved grape tomatoes and dressing. Garnish with capers (you probably won’t have any crispy capers left so use regular!).

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