CSA Week 5 – Lettuces and Swiss Chard

Recently, I was reading through Alice Water’s cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, when I came across this basic explanation on how to wash lettuces and prepare them for a salad. I find taking the time and care as she explains makes such a difference in the outcome of the salad. If salads are to be a mainstay for your summer meals, you’ll want to return to this great advice again and again!

Excerpt from Alice Water’s book, The Art of Simple Food

Garden Lettuce
For me, making a garden lettuce salad-washing beautiful fresh-picked lettuces and tossing them together with a scattering of herbs and a vinaigrette-is as much of a joy as eating one…for a salad to have flavor and life, you have to start with fresh, just-picked lettuces…Wash the lettuce, gently but thoroughly, in a basin or bowl of cold water. First cull through the lettuces, pulling off and throwing into the compost bin any outer leaves that are tough, yellowed, or damaged. Then cut out the stem end  separating the rest of the leaves into the water. Gently swish the leaves into the water with your open hands and lift the lettuce out of the water and into a colander. If the lettuces are very dirty, change the water and wash again. Dry the lettuces in a salad spinner, but don’t overfill it. It’s much more effective to spin-dry a few small batches than one or two large ones. Empty the water from the spinner after each batch. Any water clinging to the leaves will dilute the vinaigrette, so check the leaves and spin them again if they are still a little wet. I spread each batch of leaves in a single layer on a dish towel as I go. Then I gently roll up the towel and put it in the refrigerator until it is time to serve the salad. You can do this a few hours ahead.

Garden Lettuce Salad
4 servings

Carefully wash and dry:
4 handfuls of lettuce
Mix together:

1 clove garlic pounded to a fine puree (optional)
fresh herbs such as chives and parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Stir to dissolve the salt, taste and adjust if needed.
Whisk in:
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Use a leaf to taste the vinaigrette as you add the oil. Put the lettuce in a large bowl, add about 3/4 of the vinaigrette, toss, and taste. Add more dressing as needed. Serve immediately


You know what it is like to return home from vacation and go the the refrigerator wondering  what remains that is edible enough to have for dinner? This evening, tired from traveling in the car all day and hungry for something healthy, I pulled a bunch of Swiss Chard which we had harvested last week from the produce drawer. What follows is the simplest and most delicious way I’ve ever prepared Swiss Chard. I was too tired to cook anything else,  so I just rounded it out with few raw carrots, but next time I’ll have it as a side dish to complement any protein. I also think it would be delicious mixed into a bowl of stone milled grits! Try it and let me know what you think!

Simple Swiss Chard

serves 1-2
1 large bunch (15-20) leaves Swiss Chard
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Tear the leaves off the stems and break into bite size pieces. Discard the stems or save to chop and put into another dish later. Wash the leaves thoroughly. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the leaves and cook with the lid on for about 3-4 minutes. Scoop leaves out with a slotted spoon to drain. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Add the leaves and saute until all the leaves are coated and the water is absorbed. Plate the chard and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy the goodness!
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