Thanks to an abundant CSA share, I spent this past summer grilling heads of romaine. The result is fantastic: lovely charred greens with a touch of caramelized flavor. Wondering what other greens I should be grilling, I reached out to an expert. Memphis Barbecue Co.’s Melissa Cookston is known for her prowess cooking meat (she’s the only female barbeque grand champion in the world and has won dozens of barbeque competitions across the globe), but she had plenty to say about leafy vegetables. Her number one tip: Watch your greens carefully as they cook. “This is not something to put on the grill and walk away from,” she says, “because greens can go from almost perfect to a wilted mess in a matter of seconds.” Here is Cookston’s best advice for her six favorite greens to grill, plus a simple baste to use on any of them.
Cookston loves how well romaine chars. She recommends removing the outermost leaves, brushing with her baste and grilling whole for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side, or just long enough to generate grill marks. This short cook time means the core will still be a bit cool, but the outer leaves will keep their texture. After grilling, Cookston trims off the root end and serves either as-is, or with Caesar dressing drizzled over the top.
Cookston says that grilling kale not only gives it a nice smoky flavor, it also removes some of its natural bitterness. She brushes both sides of the leaves and grills them whole, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side on a medium-hot grill. Grilling makes the kale leaves crispy, almost like chips.