In garden's embrace, a leafy crown,
Lettuce unfurls, verdant gown.
A succulent whisper, a watery grace,
A dance of flavors, in every trace.
Butterhead, a kiss of dewy morn,
Crunch of Romaine, strength reborn.
Leaf and stem, a vibrant song,
Nature's palette, where dreams belong.
Swaying tales of sun and rain,
Lettuce thrives, a verdant refrain.
Petals of health, a crisp delight,
Nurtured by day, kissed by night.
Thank you ChatGPT, how poetic thy words on lettuce be…. any who… I actually really love working with lettuce. As a chef I see it as a perfect canvas but one to be chosen wisely. A thicker, heavier leaf for a thicker, heavier dressing. A more bitter green can work to balance sweeter ingredients and dressings, even the preparation will change the experience. I like substituting kale in some salads but because it is tougher, it’s nice to rub the leaves with a touch of olive oil or a slice of avocado first, rupturing the cell walls and pre-masticating it a bit. There is little gem lettuce that serve the perfect size bite for an appetizer party, or as a little nest for a colorful spring roll, and bib lettuce in its delicate sweetness. So many secondary bitter leaves, like the above-mentioned kale, or endive, arugula, radicchio, all adding to the unique symphony of a glorious salad.
Whenever someone asks me what I specialize in I hesitate for a second before always answering the same: salads. I know how simple minded that sounds, especially as a chef, but it’s true! I love salads. Maybe some of you are thinking of a handful of lettuce with a chopped up mealy tomato and a few slices of cucumber… or something equally as sad, but to me salad is so much more! A salad is cooked or raw, sometimes both; it is seasonal, fresh, interesting, and most importantly, welcome at any table. A salad I bring to the table often gets noticed because I keep them interesting, and packed full of fun surprises! Whether it’s a tangy pomegranate jewel, a sweet cherry, or a sprinkle of chili flakes, I think all salads should have a little something that surprises the eater and hopefully makes them smile in delight! I am personally a fan of sweet salads so mine are fruit heavy, I know it’s not for everyone, but I prefer that to heavily sweetened dressings.
Speaking of dressings, they are a whole nother topic! But briefly, keep it light, keep it home made. The store-bought stuff has far too much junk in it, especially canola oil and high fructose corn syrup, two no- no’s in my book. If you use a blender avoid using olive oil as it will become very bitter, instead use a sunflower seed or avocado oil.