dcsimg

Luscious Lettuce

In the Pantry

Trees are blooming, birds are chirping, and the first flavors of spring, those magical green leaves of lettuce, are starting to appear in farmers' markets. After months of eating hearty winter fare, there's nothing more refreshing than a leafy salad. Interested in improving your use of this delectable veggie? Both amateur and professional chefs can take advantage of the spring lettuce crop to inspire pre-summer meals. Read on for some basic information to help get you cooking with lettuce, even after the apple blossoms wilt.

Culinary Arts

Lettuce: Know Your Varieties

If you're interested in food, you probably know there's more to lettuce than the often flavorless pale green iceberg leaves that were once the mainstay of American salads. There are actually four varieties of lettuce:

  • Looseleaf Lettuce comes in various shapes and sizes, ranging in color from pale green to deep red, and is most commonly sold as part of salad mix.
  • Butterhead Lettuce, also known as Bibb or Boston, has pale green, tender leaves in a loosely formed head.
  • Romaine or Cos Lettuce may have originated on the island of Cos in the Mediterranean and has long, crisp leaves that are deep green in color.
  • Crisphead Lettuce includes iceberg varieties as well as Batavian and French Crisp. Its leaves are formed in a tight head and are green on the outside and pale green or white inside.

Selecting and Storing Lettuce

Get the most out of your lettuce by choosing leaves and heads that are crisp and free of any yellowing. Avoid wilted leaves as well as slimy ones. Check the bases of head lettuce for browning ends.

Wash and dry Romaine and leaf lettuces before storing to maximize their shelf life. Butterhead varieties do not need to be washed before storing. Use a plastic bag or wrap lettuce in damp paper towels and store in the crisper, away from ethylene-producing fruits such as apples, bananas, and pears, which can cause lettuces to brown prematurely.

Cooking with Lettuce

A salad of fresh, crisp spring lettuce needs little more than some high quality olive oil and a grind of salt and pepper to please the palate. However, chefs can use lettuce as the basis for more complex salads, and, surprisingly, in other dishes as well. If you're looking for some adventurous lettuce recipes, try one of these ideas:

  • Lettuce and Potato Soup uses the tough, outer leaves and ribs of lettuce that are normally discarded when making a salad to add a subtle flavor and unique color to this tasty soup.
  • Braised Lettuce is an uncommonly delicious way to enjoy head lettuce--ideal for those damp spring evenings when it feels too cold to eat fresh greens.
  • Lettuce Wraps are an interesting and healthy alternative to bread, tortillas, or pita pockets and offer a gluten-free way to enjoy your favorite sandwich fillings. Choose large, flexible leaves for best results.
  • Stir-fried Lettuce is a common dish in Chinese cuisine. Iceberg lends itself well to this preparation, which is flavored with sesame oil, tamari, rice wine, and garlic.

Whether you opt for an unusual recipe or choose to serve the simplest salad, garden-fresh lettuce may be just the thing to satisfy your spring cravings.

Sources:

Lettuce Varieties for Home Growing

WHFoods: Romaine Lettuce

About the Author:

Featured Culinary Schools

Searching Searching ...

Matching School Ads
5 Program(s) Found
Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
  • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
  • Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
  • Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
  • Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
  • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses