Saturday, September 8, 2012

Better Than Bagged Lettuce

Have you been keeping up with all of the bagged lettuce scares lately?  E coli, listeria, salmonella, the list goes on and on.  But just as importantly, bagged lettuce does not taste as good as fresh!  It just doesn't.  After years of lying to myself, I feel I can finally say this.  It smells and it does not taste good.  But do you know what does?  The real deal.  So if you've been led astray by "convenience" lettuces and are wondering why you just don't enjoy salads much, come with me.  There's a whole world of flavor that we've been missing out on.

 Here's what you're going to need:

  • Lettuce with a decent shelf life (I've had the best luck with romaine, red leaf, iceberg, or bibb- spinach and spring mix not so much)
  • A plastic knife (optional- you could just tear with your hands.  But whatever you do, do not use a metal knife.  It will rust the leaves.  I found this plastic lettuce knife at Ross for under a dollar.) 
  • A colander (or you could just use the basket of your lettuce spinner)
  • A lettuce spinner
  • A clean, dry, lint-free dish towel (paper towels will do)
  • A sealed container for storage in fridge
Shall we begin?

So, you've got your lettuce.  In my case, romaine and red leaf, my favorite combo at the moment.  Remove any wilted outer leaves and cut or tear about an inch off of the tops.  Then do the same for the bottoms- this is where your plastic knife comes in handy.  

Discard your scraps or give them new lives.  I sometimes add the tops and outer leaves to green smoothies, and the bottoms are quite good roasted with a little olive oil, garlic, and s and p (you would want to cut off the very ends, though.)  Where were we?  Right.   Now cut or tear your lettuce into manageable pieces- I cut mine into about 1/2" wide strips.  Transfer to a colander and give it a good rinse.   Then really go to town with your lettuce spinner- you want it as dry as possible.  The dryer it is, the longer life you'll get out of it.

Spin, spin, spin city.  As you can see, my lettuce spinner is fairly small, so I had to do this in two batches.  No worries, though.  I actually prefer it to having a giant one take up valuable storage space.  Anyways, now your lettuce is dry- as dry as you can possibly get it.  Good.  Line your storage container with your dish towel and then add your lettuce.  Cover the lettuce with the dish towel, then snap on your lid.  Your lettuce should stay fresh for a week.  If you change your dish towel daily it could last up to two- but if all goes as planned, you'll have eaten it long before that, right?

As for adding other veggies to the lettuce, I wouldn't.  Especially onions- the acid will definitely make your lettuce go bad sooner.  But I do keep cut onions, bell peppers, carrots, and whatever else I'm into at the moment in the fridge ready to be tossed with my lettuce.  Well, folks, I'm all out of space.  Until next time.

Update:  Also works fantastically well for kale.  Those bunches at the grocery store are always sopping wet and bound to go bad quickly.  Remove the thick, woody stems and give them the same treatment, preferably as soon as you bring them home.