Right Now: Lettuce
Two salads for spring
In spring, I grow a lot of lettuce. Lettuces bolt in the Virginia summer heat, but from now until mid-July, I can harvest lettuce nearly every day. If you have a little space – even a small, wide, shallow, well-drained container – you can grow a bit of your own lettuce from starts or seeds. For smaller gardens, a cut-and-come-again technique will make the most of your space, while bigger gardens like mine can accommodate full heads.
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Like most greens, the best way to prep newly harvested lettuce is to let it soak a good while in a sink filled with cold water to dislodge both sandy grit and whatever creatures are holed up in your lettuce leaves. Sadly, slugs like lettuce nearly as much as I do and must be fully submerged to be persuaded to leave. (My sink is adjacent to a window, so I do try to return found creatures back to nature whenever possible.) Once the lettuce has soaked for 30 minutes or so, you can be sure that you won’t find any little friends in your salad.
This week's recipes feature Bibb lettuce, a variety I grow in my garden, and frisée, a member of the escarole family that I snatch up whenever I see it at the store or markets. Both have rather fragile leaves and are best enjoyed a day or two after purchase. To accentuate the delicate leaves, I have a couple variations on well-emulsified dressings this week. One, a creamy vegan tahini ranch dressing fit for the Bibb lettuce, and the other, a Lyon-style warm bacon vinaigrette for the frisée.
Both salads are perfect for mid-week variety or whenever you find yourself with a few heads of perfect spring lettuce. The Bibb with tahini ranch comes together about as easily as a tossed salad can. The frisée – a take on the classic salade Lyonnaise – is a little more work but each step follows the next with the kind of grace and logic that typifies the best French cooking.
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