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  • A Garlicky, Versatile Vinaigrette Is the Key to This Grilled Salmon Caesar Salad

A Garlicky, Versatile Vinaigrette Is the Key to This Grilled Salmon Caesar Salad

By G. Daniela Galarza | April 29, 2021 | The Washington Post

There are two things I do when I don't know what I want to cook for dinner. Either I'll start chopping up an onion, heat some ghee or oil in a pan, add the onion, and stir until I figure out what I want to do next. (Something about that smell will always push me in the right direction!) Or I'll make some sort of dressing, usually a vinaigrette. It doesn't always lead to salad, but it does always dress up dinner. That's how this recipe for a grilled Caesar salad with salmon and asparagus was born.

The dressing, which is salty with anchovies, perky with lemon, spicy with mustard and rich with olive oil, starts its life out - sans cheese - as the seasoning for everything. While you heat up a grill, broiler or a grill pan, brush it on halved romaine heads, slices of crusty bread and salmon filets. (Thick stalks of asparagus and lemon halves get a light brushing of canola oil.)

Then, head to the grill, or pull out your stovetop grill pan. On a not-too-hot section, quickly grill the romaine until it's got some grill marks on both sides. You don't want to grill it too long or it will start to fall apart; a few minutes is all you need.

Next, perpendicular to the grates, line up the asparagus stalks. They should be touching, like logs forming a raft. Place your salmon filets on top; your asparagus raft is going to keep the fish from sticking to the grill grates. (Of course, if you want your fish to be crispy, oil the grates and lay the filets right on the hot grill, taking care not to move them until they release easily.)

The slices of bread you brushed with dressing? The lemon halves? Those go on the grill now, too. Close the grill (or oven, or cover your grill pan) and let everything cook for a few minutes, until it has some nice grill marks. Then rotate everything and let it cook for a few more minutes.

While this is happening, stir a few handfuls of grated Parmesan into the dressing. Now it's official Caesar salad dressing, and you can get a platter ready. Line everything up and drizzle the cheesy dressing, plus more grated cheese, on top before serving. It's dinner, fully dressed.

There are several ways to make this recipe your own: Use a different fish; boneless, skinless chicken breasts; or a vegetarian option of your choosing. Omit the anchovies if you don't like them. Skip the cheese or substitute half as much nutritional yeast. Roast everything on a sheet pan instead of grilling it, if you'd like. You'll miss that lovely, fiery charred flavor, but it will still be a Caesar salad-style dinner.

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Grilled Salmon Caesar Salad With Asparagus and Charred Lemons

Active time: 20 minutes | Total time: 30 minutes

4 to 6 servings

A hot grill makes quick work of this salmon Caesar salad, in which a garlicky, anchovy-spiked dressing, sans cheese, gets brushed over everything - the salmon filets, the romaine and the crusty bread for large croutons - before they hit the grates for a light char. Concerned about fish sticking to the grill? Sidestep that anxiety by cooking the fish on top of a row of asparagus. (If you like your salmon more well done, or if your filets are on the thicker side, you may need to slide the fish onto the grates to continue cooking after the asparagus is done.) Lemons get grilled alongside everything else for more puckery flavor. No grill? Use your broiler or a grill pan on the stove top instead.

If using a grill pan, lightly brush it with oil. If using a charcoal grill, cook only over indirect heat.

Make Ahead: Dressing may be made, without cheese, up to 1 week in advance.


3 oil-packed anchovies, or more to taste

3 cloves garlic, or more to taste, smashed

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons), plus more to taste

3 tablespoons Dijon or spicy brown mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil, plus more for brushing

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

2 (4 to 8-ounce) skin-on Alaskan salmon or arctic char fillets

2 to 4 thick slices crusty bread, such as ciabatta, sourdough or baguette

2 small heads romaine, trimmed and halved

12 ounces asparagus, preferably thick stalks, trimmed

1 or 2 lemons, halved

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish if desired


1. Using a small food processor, pulse the anchovies and garlic into a paste. Add the lemon juice, mustard and honey and process until smooth. With the processor running, slowly stream in the grapeseed or canola oil and the olive oil. Stop the machine and, using a leaf of romaine, taste the dressing, adding salt, pepper and more lemon juice as needed, pulsing for another second or two to combine. (This may also be done by hand: On a cutting board, using a chef's knife, chop and crush the anchovies and garlic into a paste. Add them to a medium bowl and whisk in the lemon juice, mustard and honey. Whisk the oils into the dressing in a steady stream until it's emulsified and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.)

2. Heat the grill to about 350 degrees. If using a grill pan, it should be very hot but not smoking (see headnote). If grilling over charcoal, use a grill thermometer or use the hand method: If you can hold your hand an inch from the grill for about six seconds, the grill should be around 350 degrees.

3. Spread 1 generous tablespoon of dressing over each salmon filet. Using a pastry brush, spread some dressing on both sides of each slice of bread. Very lightly brush the cut side of each romaine head with dressing, and season each one with a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Very lightly brush the asparagus and the cut side of each lemon half with oil.

4. Grill the romaine heads, cut side down, until lightly burnished, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and grill for 1 more minute; the romaine should be charred but not limp. Using tongs, remove them from the grill and place onto a serving platter.

5. Using tongs, place the asparagus in a single, tight row perpendicular to the grill grates. Lay the salmon, skin side down, atop the asparagus. Place the bread and lemon halves, cut side down, near the cooler edges of the grill. Close the grill (or cover the grill pan) and cook, checking once to be sure the grill isn't overheating, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bread is lightly charred on one side.

6. Flip the bread, rotate the lemon halves, and then cover and cook for another 4 to 6 minutes, or until the fish has reached an internal temperature of at least 120 degrees, and the asparagus, bread and lemons are lightly charred.

7. Using tongs, layer the salmon, asparagus, lemons and grilled bread on the serving platter with the grilled romaine. Stir the Parmesan into the remainder of the dressing and drizzle some on the romaine, top with more grated cheese, if desired, and serve, with extra dressing on the side.

Nutrition (based on 4 servings) | Calories: 506; Total Fat: 44 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Sodium: 404 mg; Carbohydrates: 13 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugars: 5 g; Protein: 20 g.

This content is licensed with permission. Read more in health and wellness at www.washingtonpost.com.

G. Daniela Galarza
The Washington Post

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