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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cook With Me: Et Voila!

This morning the temperature was in the upper sixties, and the sky spritzed a cool mist as if we might be in a grocery store. But we were in a giant field of lettuce near Efland, NC.

A Lettuce Gleaner in Efland, NC

At C’est si Bon! we grow lettuce. Or I thought we grew lettuce till I went to glean lettuce at McAdams Farm with the Society of St. Andrews. Everyone was stunned at the sheer volume of green and red, and speckled heads.

Three Heads Are Better Than One

There was lettuce as far as the eye could see and then some. Rebecca showed us how to cut the heads as Doris and I turned them upside down – the signal that they were ready to be picked up. It was so incredible to look up and see the sheer bounty of lettuce and the children carrying the heads towards the truck where Lindsay was packing them to return to the Inner Faith Food Shuttle.

Delight in Fields of Lettuce

I first became interested in gleaning while doing research for my novel, City of Ladies, as Eleone turns to gleaning turnip fields and apple orchards to survive her journey in 16th Century Gascony.

But lettuce is one of those vegetables that doesn’t get as much press as say, asparagus. It’s only lettuce for crying out loud. It’s for salad. But I think we should toss around some new and old thoughts regarding lettuce! And with a strawberry vinaigrette.

Here’s my old recipe made anew.

Char-Grilled Romaine with Strawberries and Tarragon
From the C’est si Bon kitchen

This salad calls to mind a spring morning gathering sweet berries and lettuces, and then placing them gently over one of the first outdoor grilling fires of the season – enjoy.

May Strawberries in North Carolina

Makes 4 servings
For the salad
2 cups arugula, washed and torn
1 large head romaine, halved lengthwise and drizzled with olive oil
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise

For the dressing
coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves

Prepare the grill. Place the romaine, cut side down, over the grill for two to three minutes or until it looks a bit charred but is not on fire.
Make the dressing by squeezing and zest the lemon directly into a large, shallow bowl perfect for serving the salad. Add the arugula, tarragon, and strawberries and drizzle with the oil. Coarsely chop the grilled romaine. Add to dressing and toss to evenly coat the ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow flavors to mellow.

Strawberries Ready For Salad and Nibbling

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