Serious Eats: Recipes

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.


Lettuce Soup

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

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