If you are a gardener or a serious salad enthusiast, you are eagerly anticipating the first tender leaves of spring lettuces. Peppery arugula, brightly colored Swiss chard, spicy mesclun mix and sweet spinach are ever so delicious when freshly harvested or purchased from your local farmer.
The baby leaves of lettuces and other greens make fantastic salads, with flavors that are ever so vibrant. Growing your own lettuces and greens ensures a perfect tasting, pesticide-free crop. If you purchase your lettuce at the supermarket, look for leaves and heads that are brightly colored, with no evidence of yellowing or brown spots, and wash it well before eating.
Lettuce has been used since ancient times. In fact, the Chinese have grown lettuce since the 5th Century and considered lettuce a “good luck” food, while the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that lettuce provided therapeutic medicinal benefits.
Low in calories, lettuce is a wonderfully hydrating food. The high water content makes it cool, crunchy and refreshing, and every variety of lettuce supplies healthy doses of chlorophyll and vitamin K. Romaine lettuce contains the highest amount of nutrients, supplying an excellent dose of vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, as well as folic acid, manganese and chromium.
Large romaine leaves make an excellent wrapper for spicy Asian dishes; or an interesting alternative to bread for sandwiching together slices of roast turkey, avocado, peppers and a bit of cheese. Lettuce can be stir-fried, combined with fresh peas to make a lovely warm weather soup, or included on a crudité platter.
Entertain your palate with the many pleasures of lettuce as you prepare your delicious life!
Lettuce Entertain You Wraps
Serves 4 to 6
1 large head Boston, iceberg or romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound ground chicken
1-1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup chopped scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or substitute 1 minced jalapeno
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
fresh lime quarters
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Separate lettuce leaves, clean and dry them and arrange on a platter. In a sauté pan, heat canola oil until almost smoking. Add the chicken and cook until well browned. Stir in ginger, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, red pepper or jalapeno and hoisin sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring until mixture is well combined. Remove from heat and stir in peanuts, mint and cilantro. Spoon some of the mixture into a lettuce leaf, squeeze lime juice over, roll up and enjoy.
Add shredded carrots, chopped water chestnuts and slivers of sweet pepper if desired, as well.
Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP is certified in holistic health counseling by The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. As The Conscious Cook, Robin strives to prepare a delicious life and teaches healthy cooking classes to students of all ages, emphasizing the use of natural ingredients and easy to prepare recipes. To schedule a class or for more information, go to www.theconsciouscook.net .