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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Easy-easier-easiest sides: Lettuce

Iceberg, Boston Bibb (my favorite), Romaine, green leaf, red leaf, mesclun, radicchio, endive, chicory, escarole...it's not as boring a vegetable as it may seem.  Some lettuces are quite nutritionally dense, especially the darker green and red ones. 

There are head lettuces and leaf lettuces...head lettuces, like Romaine or iceberg, have a stem uniting all their leaves, while leaf lettuces are totally loose-leaved.  You can make salad out of or braise either type, but grilling is better suited to head types.

Easiest: Salad

This hardly counts as a recipe, but tear up some of whatever type of lettuce looks freshest at the supermarket and slap a grilled chicken breast, pork chop or roasted veggies on top for an instant, dressing-free salad. 

Or shake up an easy mustard vinaigrette...3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp mayonnaise (or if you happen to have lecithin gelcaps leftover from, say, breastfeeding supplementation, squeeze the contents of one of those into the vinaigrette in place of mayo), a pinch of black pepper and a shake of Italian seasoning.  Put all that into a shake-y container and shake, shake, shake (or whisk).  Makes 2-3 servings.

Or try some homemade Thousand Island Dressing.

Easier: Grilled

This is a method for head lettuces only...Romaine, Bibb, endive, chicory, escarole, radicchio.  I guess you could do iceberg, too, though I've never tried. My favorites are Belgian endive and radicchio. 

Grilled lettuce
Makes how ever many servings you need

1 Belgian endive per serving, or 1 larger head lettuce per 4 servings
olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar

Cut the heads in halves or quarters, keeping part of the stem in tact on each piece.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill, turning the lettuce every few minutes, until nicely charred. 

Slice the grilled lettuces into 1" strips, toss with a little balsamic vinegar and serve warm.

Try this maple marinade for a more exotic flavor.

Easy: Braised

Usually I braise hearty greens like kale or collards, but it's a perfectly good method for more delicate lettuces. 

Braised Lettuce with Beans
Makes 6-8 servings

2 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cups lettuce, cut into 1" strips
1 cup chickpeas or lima beans, cooked
1 cup chicken or veggie broth

Saute onion until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add lettuce and stir in.  Add beans and broth, bring up to a simmer and cook over medium heat, covered, for 5 minutes or so, until lettuce is wilted. Pin It

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