Don’t You Dare Call Them Boring: Hearts of Romaine

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Hearts of romaine are one of those kitchen workhorse ingredients that rarely get the attention they deserve. We use them to fill out our salads and perhaps add some crunch to a sandwich, and…don’t think much of them beyond that. So what can you do with them beyond the usual? I have a few ideas! What about you?

I love hearts of romaine for their fresh, crunchy ribs, which are such a contrast to the softer leaves. The mild flavor of this leafy green also makes it a blank canvas when it comes to using it in recipes. Romaine is lovely when dressed with a simple lemon and vinegar dressing, but it can also does fantastically with something like a spicy peanut sauce in a rice bowl.

Romaine does a stand-up job in a tossed salad, of course, but I like it even better when chopped very small and mixing it with grains, other veggies, and nuts, like in our Fennel and Radicchio Salad. I’ve actually found that the romain stays pretty crunchy for several days when prepared this way, so it’s become a consistent addition to my make-ahead lunch salads.

Have you ever tried romaine in a stir-fry? It’s amazing. This also makes an incredibly easy side-dish. The leafy edges turn silky and tender while those center stalks stay crunchy. Hit it with a little sauce and you won’t believe how easy it is to eat an entire head of romaine in one sitting. Get the step-by-step instructions in our tutorial on How to Stir-Fry Vegetables.

Now that it’s grilling season, I’m also looking forward to searing hearts of romaine over the grill — just cut them into wedges and grill over high heat. This is something I discovered a few years back and look forward to as soon as the weather starts to warm. The grill adds a hit of smoke and caramelized flavor that makes summer salads taste extra special.

How do you use hearts of romaine in your cooking? Any fun ideas to share?