Tag Archives: romaine

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

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.

 

Butterhead

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.

 

Iceberg

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.

 

Arugula

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

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.

 

Endive

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

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. 

Escarole

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

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

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

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.

 


Father's Day Menu Ideas

Whether you decide to celebrate dad at home or pack a lunch picnic for the local park, these recipes will be sure to help you prepare the perfect Father’s Day meal. The menu we chose can be mostly prepared on the grill. The baby back ribs are perfect for barbecue-loving dads, and the grilled veggies and grilled wedge salad make for healthy sides. While all of this is cooking on the grill, our easy slow cooker baked potatoes can be cooking indoors. We like to serve them fully loaded with bacon, sour cream and chives. All you need to add is fresh iced tea or lemonade and call the family to the backyard. So set the table and fire up the grill; it’s time to enjoy a great meal while celebrating the fathers in our lives.


Baby Back Barbecue Ribs
YIELDS: 6 servings

Barbecue ribs are a treat, and they work great for a backyard cookout. These baby backs are cooked on the grill and sauced towards the end, creating a glaze that will have you licking your fingers. We suggest cooking these on our GrillStation™ 5 Burner Gas Grill but you can always cook them in your slow cooker and finish them in the oven, if necessary.
Ingredients
Wood chips, soaked in water at least 1 hour
2 sheets (18x24-inches each) 18-inch wide heavy duty aluminum foil
1 rack baby back pork ribs (about 3 pounds), cut in half
1 Tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
Instructions
Preheat grill to MEDIUM heat or GRILL ZONE (ORANGE).
Center half of ribs in single layer on each sheet of aluminum foil. Combine brown sugar and seasonings; rub over ribs, turning to coat evenly.
Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and one end to seal packet. Through open end, add 1/4 cup water. Double fold remaining end, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Repeat to make two packets.
Place rib packets in covered grill and grill 45 minutes. Remove ribs from grill and open foil.
To start SmokeStation™: Drain wood chips; fill SmokeStation drawer about ½ full. Turn SmokeStation burner to LOW. Turn burners beside SmokeStation to MEDIUM. Turn remaining 2 burners to LOW.
Place ribs on grill grate over burners that are LOW. BRUSH ribs with barbecue sauce. CONTINUE GRILLING 15 to 20 minutes, brushing with sauce and turning frequently.
Add wet wood chips as needed on top of wood chips to keep smoke going without flames or use a spray bottle of water set on the stream setting to wet wood chips.
Everyday Good Thinking http://everydaygoodthinking.com/

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Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes
YIELDS: 4 servings

Baking potatoes in a slow cooker imparts steam which keeps the inside of your potato fluffy and delicious. If you prefer to cook the potatoes with salt, be sure to oil the inside of your slow cooker first so it doesn’t stick. Use a medium slow cooker if making only a few potatoes or use a large slow cooker if making more than four.
Ingredients
4 to 8 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Instructions
Rub potatoes with olive oil and pierce with a fork.
Place in slow cooker.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours or LOW for 7 to 8 hours depending on quantity of potatoes and size of slow cooker or until internal temperature reaches at least 210°F.
Sprinkle with salt before serving.
Top with butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese and chives, if desired.
Everyday Good Thinking http://everydaygoodthinking.com/

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Grilled Vegetables with Balsamic Marinade
YIELDS: 6 servings

We love to use fresh vegetables from the farmers market when grilling. They are lightly marinated to add a boost of flavor, but the grill brings out the natural sweetness of the veggies while imparting a smoky, charred kick. These vegetables turn out great when cooked on our 3 Burner Pedestal Gas Grill.
Vegetables
​1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
2 large portabella mushroom caps
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut in half
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut in half
1 large red onion, sliced
Marinade
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
​Place vegetables in large glass dish.
Combine marinade ingredients. Pour over vegetables in dish.
Cover vegetables and let marinate several hours or overnight.
Preheat grill to MEDIUM-HIGH heat or GRILL ZONE (ORANGE).
Drain vegetables; discard marinade.
Grill 8 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally until vegetables are browned and tender.
Everyday Good Thinking http://everydaygoodthinking.com/

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Grilled Romaine with Creamy Caesar Dressing
YIELDS: 4 servings

If you’ve never grilled romaine, you have to start. It adds a boost of charred flavor to a light, leafy green that you don’t expect. Skewer the romaine to make turning easier or use tongs to get even grill marks. Top with homemade Caesar dressing and grilled bread croutons.
Dressing
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
Salad
1 head romaine lettuce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Croutons
Instructions
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.
Preheat grill to medium-high.
Slice head of romaine lettuce in half lengthwise through root end. (Root end will help hold romaine together.) Use wooden skewers to hold lettuce leaves together, if necessary.
Spray romaine with nonstick cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil. Place romaine halves on grill.
Grill 2 to 4 minutes each side until romaine is charred and slightly wilted.
Drizzle dressing over grilled romaine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and croutons.
Everyday Good Thinking http://everydaygoodthinking.com/

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