Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti

Did You Know?

1 Comment

“Lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.”  Charles Dudley Warner

Red Leaf  LettuceRed Loose-leaf Lettuce

Did you know. . .

. . . . . .that all lettuces are not created equally?  More on that in a second.

We are quickly approaching Saturday, and that means getting creative to eat all the fruits and vegetables from last week’s farmers market.  We have half of this glorious head of red leaf lettuce left.  It is happy lettuce.  Why is my lettuce happy?  We’ll get to that in a moment.  But first, a little background.  I am reading an interesting book called Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.  You may think that it sounds like a book that Euell Gibbons might have penned; Gibbons was an authority on noshing on wild foods, but Robinson puts a different spin on eating “wild.”  Robinson discusses how many nutrients have been bred out of the foods we eat to make them more palatable {i.e. sweeter, less bitter}.  She also talks about which varieties are the most nutritious and how to prep, store and eat them.  It isn’t the kind of book that requires you to sit down and read it cover to cover, although you could do that.  To me, this is a great reference book that should be on the bookshelf of everyone who wants to eat food that is as healthy as possible.  And now, back to those happy leaves of lettuce.  According to Robinson, there are 2 rules of thumb for selecting lettuce with the highest phytonutrient content.  The first is color.  You may think that the deep, dark green romaine that you have been eating is the best, but indeed it is not.  Lettuces that are red, purple or reddish-brown are the richest in phytonutrients.  The second factor is even more surprising.  Would you have ever guessed that lettuces whose leaves are loosely arranged on the head would be more nutritious than those that are tightly compacted?  Not me for sure.  Well, it turns out that the leaves that are exposed to the sun’s damaging UV rays produce antioxidants, which are a kind of “sunscreen” for the plant.  Because a loose-leaf head of lettuce has many leaves exposed to the sun, more of the leaves produce the phytonutrients that are so good for us, and we benefit when we eat them.

Now that you know what to look for in a head of lettuce, I’ll tell you why my lettuce is happy.  It has been properly prepared so that it will retain and even increase its nutritional value.  Robinson states that when you get your lettuce home, you should pull the leaves off and soak them for 10 minutes in very cold water.  The leaves’ temperature will drop, which slows down the aging process.  Soaking them will help to maintain crispness.  After soaking, spin or towel dry them thoroughly {I could not live without my salad spinner}; moisture on the outside of the leaves invites decay-you want the water inside the leaves.

Red Leaf Lettuce Cleaned and Bagged

Label the pin-pricked bag and you can reuse it for the next head of lettuce.

Tear up the leaves before bagging them.  What’s that you say?  Tear up the leaves now, not when I make a salad?  Apparently, another way a plant defends itself {against gnawing animals, for instance} is by producing phytonutrients to “fend off the intruder.”  The antioxidant value of the lettuce is doubled by tearing up the leaves prior to storage {the tearing being like the animal gnawing the leaves}.  Place the greens in a Ziploc bag and prick it 10 {quart size bag}-20 {gallon size bag} times with a needle or pin.  The reason for the pinpricks is for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide; the lettuce does not stop respiring {breathing} on harvest.  If you seal it up in a bag, then it uses up all of the oxygen and the carbon dioxide level rises, and it will die from lack of oxygen.  If you leave the lettuce in the open, then it respires too quickly, and uses up its stored sugar and antioxidants, making them unavailable for you. Prepare your lettuce correctly and eat within a few days for best quality.   And enjoy that salad knowing that you have done everything you can to make it more nourishing!

Champagne vinaigrette. . .it sounds so elegant.   As a kid, I loved Girard’s Champagne Dressing; not so much now, because I don’t buy prepared salad dressings.  They are full of ingredients that aren’t necessary for good dressing and they are expensive.  Homemade salad dressings are so much better than prepared dressings, and I always have the ingredients to make some kind of dressing, even if it is just extra virgin olive oil and vinegar {or other acid}.

Salad with Grapefruit and Blue Cheese

We had this salad for dinner tonight.  The salad was composed of the red leaf lettuce, grapefruit sections {supremes to be exact}, red onion, toasted walnuts and blue cheese.  I didn’t actually whisk together a vinaigrette, but simply showered the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then drizzled it with Champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Yum!  It was not only beautiful but delicious as well.

Advertisements

One thought on “Did You Know?

  1. Pingback: An Abundance of Deliciousness | Maui Girl Cooks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s