Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lettuce entertain you


"Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!
I've grown accustomed to alface...
....like breathing out and breathing in...
...It´s like second nature to me now"

When you move to a foreign country it´s not long before things become second nature to you. Portuguese lettuce ( alface ) is one. I have been lucky enough to have  found a local supplier in the market who grows his own heirloom red tinged lettuce, and fantastic it is too.Otherwise there is not much choice unless one ventures across the river to Spain where Romaine or little gem varieties can be sourced.
Lettuce is only for salads....or is it? Tightly furled dense Little Gem lettuce leaves or hearts of Romaine survive cooking extremely well, softening down without dissolving.
You may not think of lettuce as an especially versatile ingredient but with a little imagination it can become a class act and be used in several different ways. 
One idea that you might not have thought about, is to use lettuce leaves instead of bread or tortilla wraps.  If you choose to, or have to, avoid bread for any reason it can be difficult to find something to replace sandwiches and wraps but, perhaps surprisingly, lettuce makes an ideal substitute.They're quick to prepare and fun to eat, besides being delicious. The rich flavour of the filling against cool, crisp lettuce is fantastic.

To make the wraps
  • Take a lettuce leaf and place it so the underside of the leaf is uppermost.
  • If necessary, carefully crush the centre stalk, using your thumb.
  • Spread the filling onto the lettuce leaf.
  • Starting from the base, tightly roll up the leaf.
  • To make sure that the wraps don't unroll you could tie them with chives or secure the join with a cocktail stick - but take care that you remove the sticks before eating them!
  • Place join down on a serving plate.
Caesar salad  in Little Gem "cups"
Little gem lettuce leaves are also ideal to use as 'cups' which can be filled with your choice of filling and many types of lettuce can be used to make wraps.Braised with mushrooms and bacon they make a delicious side dish to any main course.Filled with a Caesar or Thai chicken salad could be the helpful solution to simple canapés or light starters for an outdoor summer party. The contrast of refreshing lettuce leaves to hot, spicy meatballs is a pleasure to the palate

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