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Food Focus: Types of Lettuce


Lettuce has become more than an afterthought in a side salad. Now, most supermarkets carry a dozen or so different kinds of lettuce and greens, offering a variety of flavors and opportunities to make lettuce new, different and exciting. Here are some of our standbys, our new favorites and a few greens that we like to use occasionally in place of lettuce. What are your favorite lettuce varieties? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn more about How to Clean and Store Lettuce.


Romaine has hardy tall leaves with a crisp and thick white center. This is the lettuce that you commonly see used in Caesar salad. Romaine should be washed and dried before wrapping in a damp paper towel to be stored in an airtight resealable plastic bag.



The Butterhead lettuce family includes both Bibb and Boston lettuces, a delicate lettuce with a flowery head. Bibb lettuce is slightly smaller and sweeter than Boston lettuce, and it is usually a bit more expensive. Butterheads have light green leaves that are very soft and loose, so they are often sold in plastic containers that will protect it. Butterheads are great to use in place of bread to hold wraps, pastas or chicken.



The least expensive lettuce and the best selling of all lettuces is Iceberg. You typically find them wrapped in plastic in your produce aisle. It looks like a head of cabbage and is the heaviest of the lettuces. The leaves are very pale green or almost white and contain a lot of water. This lettuce doesn’t have the nutritional value of other lettuces, but it is relatively high in fiber. Use Iceberg shredded on sandwiches, tacos, salads or subs.



This smooth, slightly bitter or spicy bright green leaf is actually from the herb family. Pictured are two varieties of arugula you might see packaged for supermarkets or loose in the greens section. Arugula originated in the Mediterranean, and it is used in Italian recipes. It goes great on top of pizza or in sandwiches and pairs well with strong cheeses like blue or Parmesan. 


Chicory leaves look similar to dandelion leaves except the leaves are yellow in the center and gradually darken. It is bitter, so it is usually mixed with other greens in salad. Alternatively, you can cook chicory on the stovetop by submerging in boiling water until tender and then adding to other ingredients. It goes great with spicy dishes, so add some crushed red pepper flakes.



This cousin to chicory is small and has white leaves with green or red tips packed in tightly from the head of the Endive. The leaves have a crisp bite with a nutty flavor and it is slightly sweet and a little bitter. Endive makes a healthy alternative to chips when scooping dip or can be added to a salad. Other popular methods for cooking endive are to place it on the grill or serve stuffed with blue cheese.



Radicchio is another member of the chicory family. It was a waxy texture and bitter flavor; cooking brings out a nutty taste. It looks similar to cabbage, with red leaves and white veins. Radicchio is usually served raw in salads or grilled and served with a gorgonzola vinaigrette sprinkled with chopped roasted walnuts. 


Another chicory relative, escarole has a pale green color and flat board leaves. It is less better than the other members or the chicory family and tastes great when sauteed with onions and garlic. It goes great in bean recipes or can be added to soups for extra nutrition and fiber.



Kale is in the cabbage family and the leaves can be green or even a beautiful purple. There are many varieties, but all have very hearty leaves that are long and attached to woody stalks. Kale is often used in salads or can be added to soups. Kale chips make a great, healthy snack; break into bite-sized pieces and lightly spray with olive oil and bake at 350°F until crisp and sprinkle with salt.


Mesclun is a mixture of assorted small baby greens. The word “mescla” comes from the South of France and means mixture. These leaves range in colors and textures and their taste varies from bitter to sweet. Serve these baby greens with crumbled blue cheese, sliced strawberries and a light vinaigrette for a refreshing salad.



Mache greens originated in France during the 17th century and are now available in your local grocery stores. These very small, sweet dark greens with a slight nutty flavor are also called “lambs lettuce.” This makes are great salad; top with roasted beets, goat cheese and drizzle with a delicate vinaigrette.


How to Clean and Store Lettuce

We all know how easy it is to rip open a bag of lettuce for a pre-dinner salad, but what if fresh lettuce was just as easy and tasted much better? That would be great, right? Today, we will show you how to take whole heads of lettuce from the grocery store or farmers market and clean and store them properly so they last just as long, if not longer, than bagged lettuce. You’ll be able to use your gorgeous lettuce in salads as a main or side dish, and you can top it with the salad dressings we made earlier this week. 

The instructions we have provided for cleaning and storing your lettuce are for romaine, butter, frisee and leaf lettuce varieties, or any leafy lettuce or green (such as kale.) Iceberg lettuce is somewhat different and is addressed at the end of this post. 

If you are planning to clean and store your lettuce:

Fill your very clean sink halfway with cold water. If your home is warm or your water is not cold, add a bowlful of ice to the sink to keep it chilly. This ensures your lettuce crisps and does not wilt.

Pick whole leaves off the lettuce and place into the cold water bath in your sink. Alternatively, you can cut off the base of your lettuce and the whole leaves will easily fall apart; place them in the cold water bath. Gently dunk and massage the lettuce to encourage the dirt to fall out of the leaves. Allow the lettuce to sit in the sink for 15-30 minutes without disruption. The dirt will fall from the leaves and settle onto the bottom of the sink, allowing the clean leaves to float on top, and the lettuce will become crisp.

At this point, your lettuce is clean. There are two methods for storing your lettuce, and they operate on similar principals. You are trying to remove excess water to prevent the leaves from wilting or losing valuable nutrients and flavor. The paper towel will help draw out the surface moisture that is on the leaves and then, when the lettuce needs it, give it back. Removing excess air prevents oxidation, which can turn lettuce brown.

#1: Prepare a couple long rows of slightly damp paper towel on the counter. Remove your lettuce from the water piece by piece, shaking lightly to remove any excess water, and lay leaves in a single layer across the rows of paper towels. When the row is full, lightly roll up the leaves in the paper towel like a jellyroll. Place your rolls of lettuce and paper towels into a plastic bag and seal, attempting to remove as much excess air as possible. (One trick to remove excess air without smashing your lettuce is to seal the storage bag almost completely, insert a straw and suck out the air, and then remove the straw and seal immediately.)

#2: Line a large plastic or glass storage container with slightly damp paper towels. Remove your lettuce from the water piece by piece, shaking lightly to remove any excess water, and lay leaves in a single layer across the bottom. When the row is full, layer a new piece of slightly damp paper towel, followed by a layer of lettuce, continuing the layers until the container is full. You may need more than one container, depending on the size of your storage container and how much lettuce you prepare. Before securing the top on the container, finish your layers with one last paper towel so the lettuce is not pressed against the plastic.

It is best to wash and store your lettuce as soon as possible after bringing it home from the store or market. Depending on external factors, your clean lettuce can last anywhere from four days to two weeks with these methods. When you are ready for a salad or sandwich, simply grab what you need and go.

If you are planning to wash and eat your lettuce immediately:

Sometimes, we are in a hurry or just downright hungry. If you want to make a salad right now, here’s what you need to do.

Cut the base from your lettuce and discard it. Chop or tear your lettuce the way you plan to serve it. (There is a great debate in the food world about chopping vs. tearing lettuce that’s been raging for decades. If you are eating it right away, it makes no difference, so do what you prefer and let the foodies fight it out on their own.) If you have a salad spinner, this is its shining moment; add the lettuce to the inner basket that sits inside the bowl and fill it with water. Gently massage the lettuce to encourage the dirt to separate. Pull the basket out of the water and dump the water. If the water is relatively clear, move on to the next step; if it is dirty, repeat the rinsing method until the water is clear. Then, place the basket back into the bowl, put on the top and spin until your leaves are dry. If you do not have a salad spinner, follow the same basic instructions with a colander and bowl, and allow the lettuce to dry on paper towels, patting dry if necessary.

Drying your lettuce is important because most salad dressings contain a fat or oil component. Fats and oils repel water, so dressing sticks to dry lettuce better.

For iceberg lettuce:

Iceberg lettuce has a very different shape and structure than leaf lettuce. It’s much easier to clean, but is said to have less flavor and nutritional value. That said, the leaves make perfect boats for lettuce wraps, which benefit from the crisp lightness that iceberg lettuce is known for. Feel free to convert any wrap recipe (like this one for Asian Chicken Wraps) by substituting iceberg leaves for the tortillas. Iceberg is wonderfully crisp and, when mixed with other lettuce and greens, makes for a healthy and nutritious salad.

To clean iceberg lettuce, give the head a good rinse under cool running water and pat dry. Place on a cutting board and remove outer leaves that may be dirty or wilted, usually just the outer two. Locate the core of the lettuce and either cut it out with a knife or (our favorite method) pound the entire head of lettuce onto the cutting board, core side down. The core dislodges and can be removed easily by hand.

For lettuce wraps, remove leaves, trying your best to keep the whole leaf intact. For salads, tacos, burgers and sandwiches, slice into wedges, chop, shred or slice the leaves.


Summer Salad Dressing Recipes

It’s summer and we are constantly craving salads here at Hamilton Beach. Leafy greens are all over the farmers markets and grocery stores and they are calling our names! We eat salads with kale, Bibb lettuce, romaine, and arugula. A great way to keep salads interesting is to change them up every time, so we add toppings like chicken, toasted nuts, fresh tomatoes, sliced onions, strawberries, and goat cheese. Of course, a traditional Caesar salad or a simple salad with blue cheese can be equally delightful, and we know there is one stand-out way to ramp up your salads at home (and it’s really easy!): make your own salad dressing.

That’s right, salad dressing doesn’t just come from the grocery store. Dressings are deceptively easy to make at home, can store easily in the fridge, and will boost the flavor of your salads instantly. We love to use our Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender to make salad dressings in under a minute. Simply add the ingredients, pulse, and pour over your salad. You can even serve it and store it in the blender jar! If you don’t have a single-serve blender, you can add the ingredients to a Mason jar, seal, and shake, or just mix in a bowl with a fork or whisk. You get much more flavor than store-bought dressings that have been sitting on shelves for days or weeks, and you can avoid the processed ingredients and additives typically found in many factory-made dressings. It’s too easy not to make your own dressing at home, and you will probably find it’s a lot cheaper, too.

Today, we are focusing on creamy dressings – these are some of the most popular dressings people buy, particularly Caesar and blue cheese. These easy homemade versions will make your fresh veggies sing and soon you’ll be bringing salad to the table every day.


Creamy Caesar Dressing

To add creaminess to this recipe, we use mayonnaise instead of raw or coddled eggs; it should keep in the fridge for a week. It is easiest to make in the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender.
3 anchovies
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
​1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
For dressing, place anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper in blender.
Blend until mixture is creamy.
Add mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and oil to blender. Blend until smooth.
Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Everyday Good Thinking http://everydaygoodthinking.com/

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Test Kitchen Tip: For thinner dressing, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.


Blue Cheese Dressing
YIELDS: 3 servings

The tanginess of blue cheese works with the creaminess of mayonnaise, milk and sour cream to create the perfect blue cheese dressing. It tastes great over a simple salad or as a side to spicy Buffalo wings. Make a smaller batch by cutting the recipe in half and mixing the dressing in our Single-Serve blender.
1 clove garlic
8 ounces blue cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place garlic in blender jar.
Process on HIGH until chopped.
Add remaining ingredients to blender jar.
Process on HIGH until blended and still chunky.
Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Everyday Good Thinking http://everydaygoodthinking.com/

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