The Crisper Whisperer: 4 Ways to Use Lettuce (Other Than Salad)

You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing the abundance of fruits and vegetables you might get from your CSA or the market. —The Mgmt.

[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

If you grow your own lettuce, belong to a CSA, or sometimes get a little grabby at the farmers' market, chances are you'll end up with too much lettuce at some point from now through October. The good news is that although lettuce maintains a clean-cut, "just the salad, thank you" veneer in polite company, she's not the least bit afraid to take a couple of turns around the pan behind closed doors. Don't mistake her usual crispness for prudishness. She's awfully good—we're talking, "Oh! where'd you learn that?" good—on the grill.

When you just can't eat another bite of salad, try these delicious alternatives.

1. Lettuce Soup

Equally delicious warm or chilled, a simple pureed soup of lettuce, potato, onion, and chicken stock is seasoned with hints of parsley, nutmeg and lemon and fortified with a touch of cream. Unlike lettuce in the raw, the soup only gets better as it sits and can be gently reheated throughout the week. Recipe below.

2. Grilled Romaine with Simple Blue Cheese Dressing

This dead-easy dish is nothing short of an oil-brushed, salt-sprinkled epiphany. Prepare a grill for medium heat. Remove several layers of outer leaves from a head of romaine and reserve for another use, such as lettuce soup. You'll be left with a heart-plus. Halve the remaining lettuce lengthwise, leaving the core in place to hold the leaves of each half together. Rub with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then grill until lightly charred on each side, about one minute per side. For dressing, combine equal parts sour cream and crumbled blue cheese with plenty of lemon juice, some salt and pepper, and a little chopped parsley. Serve the grilled lettuce with a bit of thinly sliced red onion and some dressing.

3. Lettuce Sauce

If you're up for a bit of lettuce advocacy, stick it to the man with Lettuce Sauce. Why should lettuce always be relegated to the bottom of the plate? Help it rise to the top by making it into a dressing for cold poached fish or chicken. In addition to (no, not actually) making your kitchen eligible for 501(c)(3) status, lettuce sauce has the distinct benefit of turning a whole small head of Bibb or other soft lettuce into a mere cup of dressing in about five minutes. Recipe below.

4. Stir-fried Lettuce

Stir-fried iceberg lettuce is a traditional Chinese dish thought to bring good luck. You can substitute any hearty, crisp lettuce you might have in this recipe.

What about you? If you sometimes cook or otherwise de-saladify your lettuce, let us know how in the comments.

Recipes

Lettuce Soup

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in New Jersey.

The Crisper Whisperer: 4 Ways to Use Lettuce (Other Than Salad)

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About This Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 10 large outer leaves of Romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small head Bibb or other soft lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • Plenty of salt and pepper, to taste

Procedures

  1. 1

    Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a 4-quart saucepan. Add the onion and cook until beginning to soften. Add the lettuce, potatoes, chicken stock, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover the pot and reduce the heat so that the liquid stays at a brisk simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your dice.

  2. 2

    Off the heat, add the cream, nutmeg, lemon juice, parsley, and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Carefully puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot or cold. The soup will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and the flavor improves as it rests. Reheat gently before serving if desired.

  3. 3

    Lettuce Sauce

  4. 4

    - makes about 1 cup -

  5. 5

    Adapted from Emeril Lagasse.

  6. 6

    Combine the lettuce, egg yolk, capers, lemon juice, parsley, red onion, garlic, mustard, and basil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and process until smooth. Then, with the machine running, pour in the olive oil slowly through the feed tube. Season aggressively with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to use. Serve over cold poached fish or chicken or, as Emeril does, smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs and tomato slices.

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