What We’re Cooking With Now: Romaine Lettuce
Jan 30

What We’re Cooking With Now: Romaine Lettuce

By Chris Cox, executive chef, Café Phipps

Looking for adventure in the kitchen? Our monthly What We're Cooking with Now post features a fresh produce ingredient, explains how to find the market's finest, and includes a recipe to try at home.

Romaine Lettuce 

Why: A dieter’s dream, romaine lettuce has about 8 calories and 1-2 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Although it’s low in fiber, it’s high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. It’s naturally low in sodium. Plus, romaine lettuce is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It’s a good source of beta carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body. The outermost leaves are highest in nutrient density.

Shopping Tip: Choose whole romaine lettuce that is uniformly green without spots of brown or yellow. The leaves should be firm and brightly colored, not wilted. Buying hearts of romaine, choose hearts that are bright green without any signs of discoloration. 

Preparation: Best known for its use in Caesar Salad, romaine is great for all salad blends as it is a very hearty and crunchy leafy green. Other than salad, romaine is great grilled and served as a side with a light vinaigrette. It is also great as a topping for tacos, nachos, or on sandwiches and wraps as a crunchy addition. Whole leaves can also be used for lettuce wraps, a low carb alternative to bread.

If using whole head romaine, sometimes the outer leaves have started to wilt or turn brown or have burn spots. Just peel these off, and use the rest of the head. Hold the root end and cut lengthwise to separate the halves, soak each half in water then shake dry, and rinse each half again to remove any potential sand or dirt from the inside. Then chop the halves to your desired thickness for salad, or leave whole for grilling.

Recipe: Grilled Romaine, with Grilled Meyer Lemon and Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette


1 whole head of romaine
Meyer lemons, cut in half
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1 shallot, minced
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh, ripe tomato, sliced


Cut the lemon in half and place it on the grill until it is well charred. Once it cools, squeeze the juice into a bowl and add the minced shallot, smoked paprika, thyme leaves, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the head of romaine lengthwise and lay on the grill face down. Let the leaves char, but take it off the grill before it wilts completely. Some of the leaves will wilt, but some will remain firm. Chop the grilled romaine to use as a salad, or serve whole with the root end left on, cut into halves or quarters. Drizzle the grilled lemon vinaigrette over the top and serve as a unique side dish in place of salad. Garnish with sliced fresh tomatoes.