It’s easy to get in a salad rut, turning to the same kind of lettuce every time. Why not go beyond iceberg, romaine, or leaf lettuce and try some more interesting options? Spring is the perfect time to experiment with salad greens, and this post will help you get acquainted with all that leafy stuff at the grocery store.
When you purchase or harvest lettuce, you should wash or rinse it, then store it wrapped in a cloth or paper towel, then in a plastic bag, in the crisper drawer. Store lettuce away from apples, pears and bananas. These fruits release ethylene, a ripening agent which will speed the decay of the lettuce. Because of its high water content, lettuce cannot be frozen or canned for long-term storage. It should always be eaten fresh, within about 10 days of purchase or harvest.
Nutritional content varies among lettuces and greens, though most are filled with Vitamin A and potassium. With the exception of iceberg, most varieties are also a good source of Vitamin C, iron and calcium. Lettuce is also a good source of dietary fiber.
When it comes to making a salad, try creating your own mix by tossing together at least three varieties. Here’s a basic formula:
- Use a mild lettuce or green, like Boston, bibb or endive
- Another should be a crisp lettuce or green, like romaine or cabbage
- The third kind should be tart, peppery, or bitter greens, like arugula or radicchio
After your foundation of greens is mixed, you can add other goodies like carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Or you can venture into the more exciting world of salad-toppers, including edamame, beets, hearts of palm, sunflower seeds, toasted pine nuts, artichoke hearts, and more.
But wait a second. How do you tell arugula from endive? Mizuna from mesclun? Here’s a guide to recognizing and using the various greens in the produce section.
Arugula (pictured above)
Also known as: Rocket
Leaves are: Dark green and tender
Taste is: Bitter and peppery, with a slight mustard taste
Try this arugula salad with tomatoes and avocado.
Butterhead (pictured above)
Includes: Bibb and Boston Lettuce
Leaves are: Loosely formed heads of pale “wrinkled” leaves, smooth buttery texture
Taste is: Sweet and mild
Great on summer sandwiches!
Cabbage (pictured above)
Can be: green or red. Red is sometimes known as “purple cabbage”
Leaves are: crisp and crunchy
Taste is: bitter and sharp
Chard (pictured above)
Also known as: Swiss Chard
Leaves are: large, deep green, “wrinkled” leaves are always eaten cooked
Taste is: similar to beets, while the stalks are somewhat like celery
Try it in this Bean and Swiss Chard soup recipe
Dandelion Greens (pictured above)
Leaves are: tender, flat, with jagged edges
Taste is: bitter
Young dandelion leaves may be used in salads, but the larger ones taste best when they’re cooked
Endive (pictured above)
Leaves are: tender and smooth
Taste is: mild and bitter. The lighter the endive, the milder the flavor is.
Their spoon-like shape makes them perfect for dips or try filling them with crab or chicken salad.
Leaves are: wide and frilly
Taste is: mild. This is a good one to add for “fluff” and texture
Frisée (pictured above)
Leaves are: long, wide, and curly. Usually green, but sometimes edged in red
Taste is: slightly peppery or nutty
Try it with blue cheese, walnut, and cranberry on a crostini.
Kale (pictured above)
Leaves are: broad and ruffled, ranging from deep green to a bluish purple
Taste is: very mild, with cabbage undertones
The site Veganyumyum has a delicious-sounding recipe for kale salad with orange-blackberry vinaigrette. Kale is also often served cooked, as in this recipe with cranberries and pine nuts.
Iceberg (pictured above)
Leaves are: tender, crisp, and pale-green
Taste is: mild and crunchy
Perfect for a make-ahead salad with peas
Leaf Lettuce (pictured above)
Leaves are: either red-tipped or dark green, ruffled and tender
Taste is: mild but interesting
Enjoy this lettuce on sandwiches or hamburgers
Mesclun (pictured above)
The term mesclun comes from the French word for a mix of tender young salad greens. You can buy this pre-mixed in bags, or make your own blend.
Leaves are: Varied, as a mesclun could include arugula, frisée, radicchio, dandelion greens, fresh herbs, and other salad greens
Taste is: Depends on the greens included, but is usually “bitter” or peppery
This is good to mix with a milder lettuce or spinach for a great tossed salad!
Try poached eggs with pancetta and tossed mesclun
Radicchio (pictured above)
Leaves are: crisp, deep red and white
Taste is: bitter and peppery
A honey-citrus dressing is the perfect foil for radicchio’s peppery bite
Romaine (pictured above)
Also known as: cos
Leaves are: long green leaves, with a crunchy center vein
Taste is: bitter and succulent
This lettuce is used in a Caesar salad, or great for a taco salad
Spinach (pictured above)
Leaves are: tender, dark green, and sometimes wrinkled, sometimes smooth
Taste is: slightly bitter and somewhat hearty
Tat Soi (pictured above)
Also known as: spoon cabbage or baby bok choy
Leaves are: spoon shaped
Taste is: peppery
Watercress (pictured above)
Leaves are: small and dark-green on long stems
Taste is: strong and peppery
This sounds amazing: avocado and watercress salad with a soy-apple dressing
This is my absolute favorite dessert of any I have ever eaten in my whole life!
I first tasted this at the Ivy restaurant in London. They call it Scandinavian Berries; I call it a plate-licking conversation stopper! To make this dessert you will need:
- 1 cup (8 ounces) of heavy cream
- 10 ounces of white chocolate
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla
As well as a half-pint each of 3 small berries like
- red raspberries and
Over in England, there are all sorts of teeny-tiny berries available at the grocery store. However, here in Boston, blueberries are pretty much the smallest berry you can buy.
To make this dessert we need to:
- Freeze the berries
- Melt the heavy cream, chocolate and vanilla extract together
- Pour the hot melted chocolate mixture over the frozen berries.
The blackberries will probably be bigger than the other berries, so start by cutting the blackberries in half, making all the pieces of the berries approximately the same size. Then lay a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on a baking sheet with sides. Spread ALL the berries out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Lay the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the berries are frozen, remove them from the tray and store them in a baggie in the freezer.
Use the absolute best white chocolate that you can afford. (Try to avoid using “white chocolate chips” as they are not really chocolate.) The block of white chocolate that I bought needs to get chopped up into tiny pieces. It will melt much faster when it’s chopped up.
Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl that fits on top of a pan that has an inch or two of water on the bottom. (This is the “double-boiler” system.)
We melted dark chocolate in the fudge recipe this way.
You have to make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. The whole point of a *double boiler* is to melt/cook things very gently by having the steam from the water (not the water itself) heat the upper bowl!
Add the heavy cream and the vanilla to the bowl of chocolate.
Give it an occasional stir until everything is warm, melted, and all blended together.
About 5 minutes before serving, put the berries in a single layer in a flat bowl.
Pour the hot chocolate mixture into a heat-proof jug. At the table, in front of your guests, pour the hot chocolate mixture over the frozen berries.
The chocolate warms up the berries and the berries cool down the chocolate. One bite and you will be hooked on this utterly fantastic dessert!
A huge welcome to Guy Kawasaki who has shared with me his world famous recipe for teriyaki sauce, which I have turned into a video.
This blogpost contains not only the script-recipe of his video but also a description of how to use his sauce to make Teriyaki Grilled Chicken.
Script of Guy’s video:
Welcome to startcooking.com…I’m Guy Kawasaki here to make my famous teriyaki sauce!
All it takes is six ingredients – pureed in a blender:
Start with half a hand of ginger. You can peel it if you want to, but you don’t have to. Just be sure to give it a rough chop.
Cut two jalapenos in half remove the seeds and chop them up.
Trim the root ends off half a bunch of green onions and chop them up as well.
Peel an orange. But just half is needed for this recipe.
Measure out 1 cup of soy sauce and 1 cup of sugar
Now add everything to the blender. Cover it and let her RIP. Keep blending on high speed until everything is liquefied.
This is a great barbeque marinade for about 2 and 1/2 pounds of beef or chicken.
Oh and it’s got be charcoal. Gas is for wimps!
Thanks Guy, this is a fantastic recipe! Now for the Grilled Chicken!
Guy told me that from this point on, he “boils the chicken in the sauce on top of the stove, for 15 minutes – then finishes cooking it on a charcoal BBQ just to get the BBQ look”.
As many of you know, I live in a condo in the middle of Boston and have never fired up an outdoor barbeque in my life. Consequently, I’m going to show you how to do this indoors! (At the bottom of this post I have listed several links to some really great barbeque sites and recipes!)
Everyone should first take a look at my video on Grilled Chicken Indoors.
I’m going to be following that cooking procedure, but instead of a dry spice rub on the chicken, I’m using Guy Kawasaki’s Famous Teriyaki Sauce to marinate the chicken first.
For the “indoor” version of this Teriyaki Grilled Chicken, I’m using boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
You can marinate your chicken for up to 24 hours in this marinade. Be sure to use a glass or plastic dish or a plastic bag, and not a metal dish for marinating.
Remove the chicken from the marinade…
…and place on a plate. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
Put the remaining marinade in a medium size pan.
Bring the marinade to a boil.
Oops! This pan is way too small! As the marinade comes to a boil it will spill right out of this pan. I’m pouring this into a deeper sauce pan!
That’s much better. The marinade needs to get boiled for 15 minutes to kill off any of the raw chicken bacteria. If it gets too thick, add 2-3 Tablespoons of water and continue cooking.
Strain the marinade through a fine sieve. For those that want a bit more teriyaki sauce on their chicken, this is going to be delicious drizzled on top of the chicken.
Cooking the Chicken:
Non-stick pans are great in that it is not necessary to add any oil to the pan when cooking the chicken.
Be sure to follow my instructions in the Grilled Chicken video on preheating the pan. When grilling or frying you do not want to over-crowd the pan. You may have to cook the chicken in two batches.
The sugar in the marinade is making this chicken develop really lovely grill marks on both sides.
Depending on how thick your chicken breasts are you will need to cook them about 3-5 minutes on each side.
Here are the links on Barbecue-ing that I promised you:
Emily Chapelle has done a great post here at startcooking.com called A Beginners Guide to Barbeque!
Jennifer Iserloh over at Skinny Chef has a great selection of Skinny Marinades!
Steven Raichlen, is a barbecue guru, with a show, cookbooks, etc. He has a site called Barbecue Bible: http://www.barbecuebible.com/featured/
Ted Reader is a Canadian barbecue guru (also with a show, cookbooks etc). He’s got a nice site with lots of recipe videos at:
Kalyn’s Kitchen has a big recipe section on Grilling:
Here’s a single guy’s blog on “all things barbecue, food and drink”
Here’s a women-focused site called Girls at the Grill: