Salads are so much more than lettuce. Some of the best salads in the world contain everything but those leafy greens.
Take seafood salad, for instance. Thought to have begun as a dish eaten by working-class fishermen with the leftovers from a day’s catch, today it’s a refined salad enjoyed by many, commonly including scallops, octopus and crab. Crab salad is a cheaper, but just-as-delicious version of a seafood salad and is great served on toasted hotdog buns.
Some of the best salads in the world contain everything but those leafy greens.
Salads can be as heavy or as light as you want them to be. A simple tomato and onion salad is one of the lightest (and most delicious) salads you can make, as is orange and carrot salad, a staple in Moroccan cuisine. More substantial salads include the Waldorf – a classic fruit and nut salad, named after the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. Yes, the recipe calls for Bibb lettuce, but it’s merely used as a garnish.
Japanese cuisine traditionally incorporates many edible sea vegetables like seaweed. The wakame variety is especially prized for its subtly sweet flavor and silky texture, and is used in miso soup and as the main ingredient in cucumber and wakame salad. If you want to switch it up, you can use avocado instead of cucumber. Not only is seaweed absolutely delicious, but it’s also been associated with many health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels and decreased blood pressure.
More substantial salads include the Waldorf - a classic fruit and nut salad, named after the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City.
Of course, many classic salads like Cobb and Nicoise, both included in this week’s menu, do contain lettuce. While it may seem like a boring base ingredient, lettuce is actually quite complex, with over fifteen varieties. This vegetable is almost always savory tasting with flavor profiles ranging from mild to bitter. You’ve got the basics like romaine and iceberg, but more interesting are the buttery Boston or Bibb varieties. If you travel to France, you’ll see endive salad listed on most restaurant menus. Endive leaves are bitter and pair especially well with apples, pears and gorgonzola cheese.
While it may seem like a boring base ingredient, lettuce is actually quite complex, with over fifteen varieties.
The four most popular lettuce varieties tend to be romaine, iceberg, butterhead and red and green loose leaf, typically found at farmers markets. If you’ve ever bought a salad mix, you’ve seen other leafy greens mixed in such as kale, endive, arugula, frisée, or radicchio. These are technically not lettuces, but are the leaves of other families of plants. As for mesclun, it refers to a young blend of lettuce that originated in Provence, France that generally consists of chervil, arugula, leafy lettuces and endive.
The four most popular lettuce varieties tend to be romaine, iceberg, butterhead and red and green loose leaf, typically found at farmers markets.
One of our favorite ways to use lettuce is to wrap it around a hard taco shell to catch the crumbs. In the same way, lettuce is a great vessel for protein and veggies, especially if you’re trying to lessen your carbohydrate intake. Shrimp lettuce wraps always hit the spot! You can also add a handful of lettuce to your morning smoothie and if you find green sauces like chimichurri and pesto just a touch too strong, substitute the herbs with lettuce for a more neutral flavor. There really is no shortage of ways to use this leaf vegetable.