Have you ever tried growing your own lettuce? I did it for two years, I think, but the bunnies or the deer kept taking advantage of it, so I stopped. Plus it’s one of those vegetables you need to do really early before it starts getting too warm, and I’m usually too cold in April to be gardening. Or grilling, for that matter.

But one of the upsides to growing your own lettuces is that you can harvest them as you like, so just a few handfuls here and there rather than needing to buy a whole bag, which as we all know, will likely start to turn before you remember to use it, especially if it has that red leaf lettuce in there because that always seems to go bad first.

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I also liked that you could harvest individual lettuce leaves while they were still petite and so fresh, not having gotten any bitterness to them. So this week I decided to highlight baby lettuces, for those of you who do grow your own.

First up, a salad, of baby greens, sliced almonds and a warm Gorgonzola dressing. It’s warm because you blend your oil and vinegar, sugar and salt, garlic and cheese in a blender, then warm it in a little saucepan. One of my favorite salads is a warm spinach salad with bacon and hardboiled eggs (which I think would be a great addition to this recipe as well), and the dressing being warm just makes it feel more like a meal, and it helps to coat the greens and just makes it more appetizing. Try it, and you will see what I mean.

Next, as an appetizer or even a meal, I was interested in the Asian chicken lettuce wraps. The sauce for the ground chicken has a lot of the classic ingredients used in different combinations for different Asian dishes: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chile sauce, honey, garlic, ginger and peanuts. Test the sauce before you add it to the meat and veggies and tinker it to your liking. And don’t over-stuff the lettuce leaves — you want to keep them small enough to hold them without them falling apart, consumable in about three bites. If you’re really hungry and want to eat it as a meal, you could also put the meat and vegetable topping over rice, and chop the lettuce up and have it get wilted by the warm meat and rice.

And finally, for a hearty yet light dinner, grilled salmon with citrus salsa and baby greens. The citrus salsa is just oranges, onions, basil and olive oil, so not spicy at all, and then you make a simple salad of baby lettuce leaves, thinly sliced fennel, and a light vinaigrette of orange juice, rice wine vinegar and olive oil. All of these flavors are going to work beautifully together, and it should be so nice and colorful too!

Whether you grow your own lettuce or just buy those baby lettuces at the store, I hope you get to try one of these recipes out.

Enjoy!

Baby greens with warm Gorgonzola dressing

4 slices bacon

3/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

2 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

6 cups mixed baby greens

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2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate; crumble and set aside.

Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, white sugar, salt, garlic, and Gorgonzola cheese in a blender; blend until smooth. Pour the dressing into a small saucepan over medium-low heat and warm gently.

Toss the baby greens, almonds, and crumbled bacon together in a salad bowl; drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1 pound ground chicken

1 tablespoon peanut oil

½ onion minced

1 cup red or green pepper diced

1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and minced

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

¼ cup peanuts crushed.

Baby lettuce, such as Little Gems, baby Romaine, or Bibb lettuce

Whisk together sauce ingredients until well combined. If you use a firmer peanut butter you may need to microwave the mixture for 30-60 seconds in order to melt it and ensure everything is well-mixed.

Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a frying pan. Once hot, add ground chicken.

Cook until some pieces are starting to brown. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

Add the peppers and water chestnuts and cook about 5 minutes or until peppers are soft.

Add sauce and simmer on low heat until the chicken and veggies are evenly coated and everything is heated through.

Serve in lettuce leaves.

Grilled salmon with citrus salsa and baby greens

2 oranges, peeled, cored and chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

5 basil leaves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon seasoned rice-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 (5 to 6 oz. each) salmon fillets

1 package (5 ounces) baby lettuces

1/2 bulb fennel, thinly sliced

Combine oranges, onion, basil and oil in medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Mix orange juice, vinegar, and mustard in small bowl. Whisk in oil; season with salt and pepper.

Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper.

Lightly brush grill with oil.

Grill salmon, turning once, until just cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness.

Source: www.dole.com

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