Monday, June 7, 2010

Lettuce Lessons

With the all-too-frequent packaged lettuces scares lately, I’ve made some changes.

In my book I advised vigilant shopping when buying packaged lettuce such as, make sure the expiration date is at least five days from purchase, and to not wait that long and use it within 1-3 days of purchase.

Sometimes you can simply see the lettuce turning dark in a bag that says it has several days of use left. Use your eyes. They don’t lie.

Now I only buy unpackaged lettuce, even if there are no dates stamped on the leaves—with one exception, arugula. I don’t know where to find fresh arugula when my farmer’s market doesn’t sell it. I like to mix arugula in with other kinds of greens and for a favorite side dish, a watermelon-arugula-toasted pine nuts-feta cheese crumbles-herb salad. I can’t remember the last time I bought iceberg—too many other interesting flavors and colors. Iceberg is the white bread of lettuces.

The lettuces we buy are washed, spun, and laid out on paper towels to dry. After an hour I use more paper towels to soak up any obvious moisture, layer them between more paper towels, roll up, bag and finally store in the refrigerator. Still, we use or toss the lettuce within five days. Costco is going to name a store after me for my multiple uses of their Kirkland paper towel brand.

Lately I have added Caesar Salad to the menu options, and made-from-scratch dressing. Instead of croutons I make my killer onions rings, quarter them and mix as the final step. None of that canned French’s French Fried Onions for me*. Romaine never tasted so good.

PJ is not a big fan of spinach. We are still on speaking terms. But she is fine with a recipe for a spinach and pine nut pesto that we use to coat skinless chicken breasts. We bake them first.

So, if you ever let us entertain you, be assured we are looking out for you when we serve a salad.

*You won’t be thrown into the C.I.A (Culinary Institute of America) jail if you cheat and use the canned version.

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