I use each type of heading lettuce a little differently. Since romaine can stand up to heavier dressings and big flavors, I indulge my love affair with capers in a creamy dressing that combines these savory little spice buds with anchovies, fresh lemon, garlic, and parsley, all bound together with a little mayonnaise and fruity olive oil (see my recipe for garden chef’s salad).
Whether it’s young thinnings or mature heads, the flavor and texture of your lettuce should shine at the table. Even “gourmet” brands tend to be overseasoned and too heavy to really complement your garden’s bounty. Don’t overwhelm these carefully nurtured leaves with store-bought dressings; instead, try my recipe for a simple vinaigrette.
The bright, full flavors of the gorgeous batavians really shine in a warm shrimp salad with a tarragon and ginger dressing. This salad makes an outstanding lunch or light supper dish.
Delicate, soft butterheads need a light touch. Don’t overwhelm them with heavy or strong-flavored dressing; simple vinaigrettes or light creamy dressings are best. Butterheads pair nicely with fruits, fruity vinegars, and soft cheeses. In my butter lettuce salad with fresh raspberry dressing, the blend of raspberry vinegar, honey, and sour cream with the rich flavor of Merlot wine enhances the luxuriant, buttery leaves.
The best way I know to get lettuces really clean is to gently swish the leaves in a sink of cold water. Then I spin them in a salad spinner, being careful not to pack the spinner too full. Chilling the greens for half an hour or so just before dressing makes them crisp up nicely.
|Three tasty salad recipes starring heading lettuce
|Butter-Lettuce Salad with Merlot-Raspberry Dressing
|Warm Shrimp Salad with Ginger-Tarragon Dressing
|Garden Chef’s Salad with Creamy Caper Dressing
This article originally appeared in Kitchen Gardener #13 (February 1998).