Category Archives: Lettuces

Lettuce Eat Lettuce, Then Lettuce Talk About Sex (Kidding about the second part!)

Lettuce is one of those funny foods that I don’t think anyone really thinks about. There was a time when it was just diet food, especially the much maligned iceberg. Iceberg is not the most nutritious,but it’s so edible and fun. You can use it in place of taco shells, make cole slaw, use it in place of chips for dips. It’s sturdy just like it’s sister lettuces, romaine and red and green leaf. Funny to think that this vegetable, formerly thought of as a weed by Egyptians, is sturdy and durable….the Tonka truck of the food world.

Personally, I love lettuce and yes, even iceberg. It’s all about the texture. Crunchy. Watery. Green. It’s then about the toppings, the dressings, the vinaigrettes, the lovely sauces that cover and cling.

Let’s think about some of the lettuces: Bibb (probably the Queen…expensive); the red and green (Fraternal Twins); Romaine (the Glamourous one….in the Caesar, dressed up in bleu cheese too) and then the Iceberg (the Stalwart). We also have raw spinach, lamb’s leaf (my favorite….tossed with a little olive oil and really good salt! Dreams are made from this…), arugula. There are also Endive (the European…it’s curly, fancy…has an accent). However, lettuce stick to the well-known lettuces on this little episode.

Fun Facts about Lettuce:

1. It’s the number two vegetable behind potatoes of most consumed in the United States.

2. 75 %  of all lettuce is grown in California. (Since, the state is currently in the middle of one of the worst droughts in history, it will be very costly soon.)

3. You can’t preserve it. It is impervious to canning, pickling, bottling or freezing.

4. Lettuce was introduced to the New World in the mid-15th Century.

Just a little fun trivia…to lighten your day.

 

Grilled Romaine

You Will Need:

 

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad

1 head of Romaine lettuce (Outer leaves peeled off)

Worcestershire sauce

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

Lemon

Dijon Mustard

Garlic

Parmesan cheese

Let’s Make This Puppy:

1. Heat a gas grill. (If using a charcoal, cook all the meat and let them embers cool. We want grill marks and a slight wilt….not blackened vegetables.)

2.  Cut the lettuce into fourths. If it’s a small head, maybe only in half…you be the judge. (You have the knife in your hand….I’m not going to tell you what to do.)

3. Brush the cut side with olive oil. Not a lot just enough to glisten and place cut side down on hot grill. DO NOT COVER. This is really just to give a slight taste of char, that BBQ outdoor flavor. It’s like parboiling a potato, we don’t want to cook it, we want to add a little character to it’s existing personality. Remember the first time your parents scolded you in public….and left a scar in your psyche, it’s like that; a little character development.

Leave the lettuce on the grill, creating the lovely grill marks. The rest of it might have a little bit of brown around the edges….again, a little character development or taste enhancement.

Remove and place on a plate.

4. Now onto the dressing: Take a wooden bowl that’s been thoroughly chilled in a freezer. (You don’t have to do this step. It’s only if you want to be fancy.) Rub the garlic clove on the inside of the bowl. Pour in about 1/2 cup of olive oil….couple of dashes of Worcestershire, a dollop of Dijon mustard, squeeze a little lemon…about 1 tablespoon….and add freshly grated Parmesan. Whisk it together in the bowl. (If you want it a creamier consistency…like in a chain restaurant….add some mayo.). Add the salt and pepper to taste.

5. Arrange the lettuce with the cut side up, Drizzle the dressing over the lettuce. If it’s a little thick, you can whisk in a little more olive oil. Grate some more cheese over it….and voila, Grilled Caesar Salad.

Note: I don’t like to add croutons to this. There is already a lot of crunch and we are dealing with half a head or a quartered lettuce. You won’t miss the croutons. Trust me.

 

 

 

Farmers Market Haul, Eating With Friends, & His Creamy Threesome Dip (for lack of a better name)

Farmers Market Haul

The Farmers Market was a light vegetable haul today. Partially, because I haven’t had time to really put my menu together for the week ahead. As noted in a previous post, I burned two dinners. However, I did purchase a lot of lettuces at the market. I love the summer for lettuces. It’s an easy dinner fix to make a simple salad with some form of protein and to turn it into a meal. Keep it simple so I don’t become overwhelmed. I also bought some peppermint to try instead of just regular mint to see what I do with it; other purchases included crispy romaine, peppery arugula, radicchio for the grill, basil (my plant isn’t doing so well this year) and a broccoli crown. Let’s see what the week brings.

Raita

Last night, my friend Mark, an amazing homecook with specialities in Indian and Moroccan, had another dinner. I posted about one a couple of weeks ago. He made the delicious Mulligatawny Stew, Pan Roasted Potatoes and Cauliflower, Cucumber Mint Raita (pictured above) and Dal, the staple of Indian cuisine. Of course, there was basmati rice, naan and poori. Simply yummy and delicious.

He also made an incredible tangy and tasty dip for crudites. His personal creation was delicious with just the right amount of flavors for the raw veggies. With the light tang that only Greek yogurt has, mixed with the cream cheese and Mexican Crema, it was an international trio of dairy creating a beautiful compliment to the crispness of the zucchini, the heat to the radishes and sweetness of the snaps. It was a yummy audition to his Indian meal.

On another note, joining me at Mark’s, where several other friends, Mark and Denise, Lisa, Sue and her girlfriend, Chloe, whom I never met but was sweet and beautiful. It was one of the type of “dining with friends evening” that are becoming incredibly special to me. Since coming back to Los Angeles from Northern California, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream like any major life decision. (Two of my other favorite nights, were with Shelley and Bonnie making pizza and playing Scrabble. Then at David’s, helping him with his housewarming making fresh hummus.) I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it again, eating at a friend’s house, helping to prep, passing the dishes, assisting in the clean-up, laughing, telling stories, petting the animals, voicing aspirations, feeling heartaches, boyfriends, girlfriends, work, …just life…was fun beyond belief. No one was asking us if we needed something else. We weren’t screaming over the din of the music. We found the bathroom without asking a frazzled waitperson. There was a casualness, a meeting of minds, gratefulness that we could be together in the true spirit of friendship. It’s what makes these food occassions special for me. Not necessarily the eating but the process of eating: the cooking, the chopping, playing sous chef and passing food family style. It’s Thanksgiving without any of the family drama. No one was drinking too much or getting too boisterous. It was camaraderie at its best, with cool Southern California evening breezes, carrying the laughter out onto the street.

Now, go make Mark’s dip, with some friends. It’s really good.

Mark's Greek Yogurt Dip

You Will Need:
2 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
4 oz. Plain Greek Yogurt
3 oz. Crema Mexicana
1 Large or 2 small Shallots
1 Med. Garlic Clove
Chipotle LIme Seasoning (to taste) (I used Chef Tim Love’s sold at Sur la Table)

Let’s Make This Puppy:
1. Let the dairy items sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes.Then, with a fork, combine them in a bowl, trying to get as many of the lumps out of the cream cheese as possible.
2. Mince the shallots and garlic.
3. In a small saucepan over med-high heat, saute 2/3 of the shallots in vegetable oil* for a couple of minutes, until they start becoming soft – at which point add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so, until everything is pretty soft. Let that cool.
4. Add the room temperature shallot/garlic mixture to the blended dairy mixture, and add the remaining (raw) shallots, mix well. Add about a teaspoon of the Chipotle Lime seasoning and stir well, taste. Keep adding Chipotle Lime until you are happy with the taste. (I tasted it on the raw vegetables that I was serving with the dip, as the flavor will be less intense than it is on the tasting spoon – and you may want to add more seasoning). Chill for at least an hour, then serve!

*Mark used Sunflower Oil.

Farmers Market Haul and Lulu’s Gardening Class

Let’s begin with lovely Lulu’s gardening class before we get to Farmers Market Haul.

Lulu's Gardening Class

Shelley, Lauren, one of Lulu’s co-workers and Lauren’s husband, Chris, along with me, were students in Lulu’s backyard for her first-ever gardening class. Lu has been gardening since she was a child back in her homestate of Pennsylvania. It was always one of her aspirations to create an edible garden where she could cook and share her plantings. Since she purchased her home over 8 years ago in the PicFair District of Los Angeles, she has fashioned a dozen raised beds where many varieties of home-grown edibles have ripened to seasonal perfection. Being an urban/surburban kid and thinking for many years that vegetables came hidden in a supermarket’s underbelly, I’m massively awestruck by her cultivation of cantalopes and watermelons…. along with being supplied gifts from her seasonal harvests which have included lettuces (romaine, red leaf, and green leaf), tomatoes (some which she has used for canning and I used for sauces), cucumbers, artichokes, eggplant, basil, spaghetti squash, raspberries, blueberries, lemons, limes….and on and on. In each one of the approximate 2 1/2 feet by 6 feet areas, the soil has been tilled, rested and loved to reap some of the most deliciously edible gems I’ve had. There is nothing like direct farm to table to do a body good.

In this class, Lu’s immense knowledge was demonstrated when she dug up her compost turning out a dark, rich and thoroughly alive concoction with do-gooding worms (pictured). The class was a fully active hour and a half experience. For this city slicker, it still shows the difficulties of being a 21st century farmer. Farming is an arduous task. It’s about the right amount of water, sun and nutrients but I can absolutely see it’s rewards for the grower as I was rewarded cuttings from Lulu’s hardwork such as baby kale, zucchini, squash blossoms, and fresh mint.

Lulu's Compost

All of this, on this Memorial Day weekend, brings me to Farmers Market Haul. Today, it was tiny Japanese bell peppers (Yakatori Farms), purple baby artichokes (SunCoast Farms), beautiful frisee, mizuna and baby chard (Windsor Farms), green Zebra Rita’s and baby spinach (McGrath Family Farms), small sweet Maui onions for grilling (Can’t remember the farm…), and rosemary (ABC Rhubarb).

Farmers Market Haul_5_26

(It was a small shopping excursion as I had the vegetables Lulu gave me from the class.)

I love the Hollywood Farmers Market. A weekly Sunday ritual like heading to church without the pie bake off at the end. It’s reminiscent of NYC’s Union Square Market. I prefer HFM before 11:00am, before my shins are black and blue from the strollers, wagons and pushcarts but still appreciate that families bring their kids to learn about food and its production. I love the urbanity of it: hipsters with their multiple canvas bags; the mid-thirty parents, who gave their nanny the day off, and are clutching too many children and too many vegetables; the single women holding onto lattes and the bottom of their maxi-dresses; the married gay men, leering over organic zucchini and the street musicians giving the market it’s soundtrack.
There’s no competition between farmers. One of the farmers didn’t have Bloomfield spinach, a fave lovely lettuce, and pointed me to another canvas stall ala “Miracle on 34th Street”/Macy’s vs. Gimble’s sort of way. I feel like this is the way life should be, simple, uncomplicated, free of CNN’s ticker tape, which is located around the corner.

One of the great things at HFM, I get to learn about my food and ask questions of the individual purveyors. I get to know them, they know me. They become a constant. I like that. It’s a small village atmosphere in a metropolitan city. The market is there to serve and keep me, in my mind, safe…that’s why I go. Its one of the few times in my week…when out of my car and out of my apartment… I feel sheltered and we are there to buy nourishment and feel nourished.

And…no matter what I think of war or our politicians, it’s people whom I’ve known such as the farmers who had many children go to war, who help feed the young men and women who have served our country….to both, I salute you.

Meatless Monday: Grilled Caesar Salad (just Meatless) and Family Suppers

Restaurant and Waiting Tables
Restaurant and Waiting Tables

It’s a funny thing about Caesar Salads. They bring me right back to waiting tables/bartending or working in a restaurant kitchen. Many of the “family meals” when I worked in restaurants consisted of a salad, burgers, pizza or pasta. There was never any of the slaved over staff dinners that is being touted in the new cookbook “OFF THE MENU: Staff Meals from America’s Favorite Restaurants”. (Lucky them!) In the almost 2 decades of not working in eateries, clearly the times have changed since I plied my trade for tips or peeled potatoes. (I wonder how many publicists actually worked in a commercial kitchen?)

Secondly, I love the salad…when made right. They have a wonderful garlicky and salty crunch that reminds me of eating a potato chip. It’s that bite of lettuce snapping and saltiness from the dissolved anchovy. (Yep, a Caesar with anchovies…kind of novel, huh?) And, then made with a coddled egg, (yep, again a little more novelty… made with an egg) just cooked so the yolk is still runny to give it the unctuouness, clinging to the Romaine and holding the freshly grated Parmesan.

Thirdly, bringing me back to where I started, the family meal at a restaurant…when the dinner shift began at one of the five New York City restaurants that I had worked in during the 80s and early 90s, and my co-workers, some of who are friends to this day, would talk about their mornings and afternoons, of auditions, of gallery installations, of stapling resumes to headshots, of writing….or of getting over last night’s hangover…of being in my early 20s.

Lastly, they remind me of warm New York City summer nights with blaring taxis horns, beautifully curvaceous women wobbling in excessively high shoes, worked out men in tight T-shirts and baggy jeans, neon lights, shots of tequila and one of the happiest times in my life. (Of course, I wish I knew it then.)

Grilled Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
Grilled Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Who knew that all these memories came in a salad and some nourishment too?

YOU WILL NEED (2 servings):
1 clove garlic
2 anchovies (or paste).
1 egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 juice of one lemon
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan (However much you want)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce
Croutons (Store bought or homemade. Make it easy on yourself. Do what you want and have time to do.)

GRILL THE LETTUCE (Or skip this altogether and chill lettuce for about 5 minutes in the freezer. If you do this, just tear the lettuce apart just before you dress it.)
1. Heat grill.
2. Peel outer leaves of romaine off until you get to the heart. (Or you can leave a couple of the dark leaves on.) Cut in half.
3. Brush cut side with olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Place on grill until slightly charred and wilted.
5. Remove from grill.
6. Arrange prettily on plates, cut side up.

LET’S MAKE THE DRESSING:
1. Using the blade of a knife, carefully make a paste with the anchovy and garlic. Just mash it together and add a little…just a drop or two of oil.
2. Put this paste and the remaining ingredients… egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice… into a mixing bowl or food processor.
3. Whisk or process for about 30 to 40 seconds until the mixture is smooth. (If whisking, go a little longer. If you are really anal about it, pull out the timer and set it for a minute…and whisk.)
4. Now add the olive oil slowly until it becomes mixed and a little thicker, similar to a thin aoili (this may not happen if you are using a whisk…but give it a try.)
5. Add some Parmesan, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Get a pepper grinder if you don’t have one. It makes a huge difference.) You can refrigerate the dressing if you make a little too much.

LET’S FINISH THIS PUPPY UP:
1. Arrange the heads of lettuce cut side up.
2. Pour the dressing in a ‘Z’ pattern over lettuce.
3. Use enough dressing for you to be satisfied and happy. Dress the the salad to your liking but don’t over do it. (Remember, you pay that trainer at the gym a lot of money.)
4. Sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan.
5. Arrange croutons, ever so….
6. Voila!
7. Take a picture and upload to Instagram. (Most important part. You can use my photo if you don’t think yours is photogenic. You have my permission.)

….at David’s: Rubbed Pork Chops and Grilled Radicchio

May is National Salad Month, which to my less than haute cuisine mind (I grew up on canned beans and Hamburger Helper) means salads of lettuces and maybe another variety of vegetable tossed with a dairy dressing (mix in a little packet of dried herbs from a non-existant Ranch).

As I grew up and became a little more traveled and experienced chefs from around the world, I became intrigued by what salad meant to them. It could be cold noodles with fish, oranges mixed with radishes or slightly grilling a lettuce.

At David’s this week, we paired up his delicious Rubbed Pork Chops (rosemary, fennel, oregano and Mexican chili) with a Grilled Radicchio and a salad of Albion Strawberries with Mustard Frills and Arugula.

Herb Rubbed Pork Chops, Grilled Radicchio and Mustard Frills, Arugula and Starwberry Salad.
Herb Rubbed Pork Chops, Grilled Radicchio and Mustard Frills, Arugula and Starwberry Salad.

As the warmer weather continues, everything will get grilled. Another favorite is Grilled Cesar Salad with Homemade Croutons. I also love grilling fruit and mixing them in with lettuces.

Grilled Peach Salad with Blueberries, Manchego, and Spinach
Grilled Peach Salad with Blueberries, Manchego, and Spinach

For Grilled Radicchio, you need:
1 or 2 small heads of Radicchio
Olive oil for brushing
Salt and Pepper

Simplicity:
1. Halve the heads.
2. Brush the cut side with olive oil. Place on grill. Close grill lid for about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Look for grill marks, if there, remove.
4. Should be slightly wilted.

Let’s finish this up:
Place cut and grill marked side up. Salt and pepper. Serve up!