There are numerous ways to liberate lettuces. Chilled soup is elegant and unexpected. The pale hearts of romaine lettuce are succulent and puree easily, while the darker green leaves add pleasing bitter notes and contain high concentrations of vitamins A, C, and K and folate. Add a little crème fraîche to round out the flavors, and it’s a perfect accompaniment to shrimp or crab.
If soup is too daunting, try wilting the greens. In the South, there is an old recipe for cooking greens in a pan called Killed Greens. Yours doesn’t have to sound so dramatic, but try experimenting with heartier greens like mustard and arugula. Pan-wilting also uses up abundant greens that collect in the fridge (or in the garden). Greens that might look pathetic as a salad will do just fine in a frying pan.
Bibb lettuce’s earthiness is delicious, but I still don’t want it all week as a salad. Making it into a quick pickle turns it into a condiment that can accompany everything from stir-fried noodles to charcuterie to barbecued meats. It’s salty/sour but retains its crunchiness and most of its nutrients. I call it a kimchi, but really it’s just another method for wilting greens using salt instead of heat. Adding these three culinary techniques to your arsenal means enjoying spring’s bounty of greens well into the summer months.
Chef Lee shares three of his lettuce recipes:
Photos by Matthew Benson
Originally published in Organic Gardening Magazine April/May 2013.