Burnt Romaine With Avocado and Cotija 4.000

Renee Comet for The Washington Post

Plate Lab Apr 18, 2014

At Rose's Luxury on Capitol Hill, you might wait hours for a table; the restaurant does not take reservations. But once you sit, chef Aaron Silverman appeases with playful food such as this Mexican twist on a Caesar salad.

We streamlined it for the home cook, but you could embellish by topping it with roasted poblano strips the way Silverman does, or with black beans, even tortilla chips.

This recipe makes twice the dressing you need. Devour it as a dip.

Make Ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Where to Buy: Look for cotija, a crumbly Mexican cheese, at Latin groceries or under the Queso Del Valle brand at area Whole Foods Markets.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 tomatillo, husked and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Water
  • Flesh of 2 avocados
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 hearts or small heads romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthwise (leaving the core intact)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Cotija cheese (may substitute feta; see headnote)


Reserve 1/4 cup of the diced onion; combine the rest, along with the tomatillo, jalapeño and garlic in a medium saucepan. Add water to barely cover; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the mixture is barely bubbling. Cook until the tomatillo starts to soften and turns a khaki color, 10 minutes.

Transfer the cooked onion, tomatillo, jalapeño and garlic to a blender; reserving the cooking liquid.

Add half the avocado, 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon of the oil, all the lime juice, the 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the blender; puree to form a smooth dressing.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill (or indoor grill pan) to medium-high heat.

Season the romaine lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Place on the grill, cut sides down; cook, uncovered, until blackened in spots, then flip and cook briefly on the other side until the interior is barely soft, about 1 minute.

Place a generous dollop of the dressing on each plate. Lay each romaine half on top, cut side up. Scatter the reserved ¼ cup diced onion, the remaining avocado and cheese over each portion. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from chef Aaron Silverman of Rose's Luxury on Capitol Hill.

Tested by Joe Yonan.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.