As of today, June 17, 2015 7:10 PM CST, there is enough lettuce in the garden to feed me and CFO dinner salad for 37 meals. I have lettuce growing out of lettuce. Lettuce birthing more lettuce. Lettuce is mating with other lettuce, creating new genetic strains of lettuce, and the baby lettuce is reproducing by binary fission. As fast as I can harvest, the remaining lettuce expands and fills the empty space. Its like the vegetable garden version of the Big Bang. Or the Book of Genesis. On the 6th day: LETTUCE.
And, it’s not just lettuce, but all of my leafy greens are really making something of themselves. We had a bit of a cold, rainy spell for the past 2 weeks. It dipped down into the 50’s and low 60’s for so long I was worried I made a rookie mistake planting out in April. Well the rains stopped and the clouds parted, and now I have Swiss chard, spinach, and beet greens taking over like they own the place. (But they don’t; that would be the lettuce.) In truth, I tripled my Swiss chard planting because it is one of my top 5 plant foods, along with eggplant, tomatoes, basil, fennel, sweet corn, summer squash, winter squash, fresh peas, pole beans, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beets, kale, peppers, and…wait, is that more than 5? Well, maybe I have never met a vegetable I didn’t like (except for iceberg lettuce. not even on tacos.), but I do really like chard. Not only because it is beautiful and delicious, but its a cut-and-come-again kind of vegetable and will keep giving you food every. single. day. But, I digress.
Now back to lettuce. What to do with so much lettuce? I think of myself as a vegetable maverick, a wild card, I like it all and will try anything if its edible and won’t kill me. I once make an entire stir fry with just lovage. Seriously. It was disgusting and I learned something. But my brain just can’t go beyond the simple SALAD with lettuce. Yes, you can wilt it, yes you can roll things into it, but really it all comes down to salad. In the end its all salad. Because, cooked lettuces are just not appetizing. Nor should they be. Fresh lettuce is something to savor and dream about, because it will never get better than it is in June. So, how do we make the dinner salad exciting?
There are a quadrillion salad recipes out there. Maybe even 10 times that. I know, because I have tried every single one. They all have the same formula. They all have the same formula to the point that now cook books just give you these formulas.
BAM! Makes you feel like you have solved the mystery of the sphinx! But we know the salad formula, don’t we? Its not quantum physics, its food. All you need are these five things:
2. Other stuff.
5. Alcohol (in case you are too open minded).
I have found over the years that the more I try to follow any set recipe, the less successful I am. The best dinner salads are those where I collect my lettuce, look around the kitchen/pantry/garden to see what I can add, and top with the most basic dressing possible.
Take tonight for example. Start with a healthy mix of greens (which happens to be a combination of at least 6 varieties tonight). I had radishes (tail end of my month in radishes), corn, grape tomatoes, Italian farro, and garbanzo beans.
I whipped up some dressing using this recipe:
The Only Dressing You’ll Every Need To Make:
- 1 part Vegetable oil (I like the extra virgin olive variety)
- 1 part Vinegar (red wine, white wine, rice wine, balsamic, whatever)
- Squeeze of emulsifier (dijon mustard is good, you could use mayonnaise)
- Salt and pepper and any other seasonings you like (spices, herbs, tabasco, go crazy)
Mix well and done. I shake up in reused jam jars. Add or adjust any flavor components as needed and taste before you serve.
Top the salad with the dressing, and add anything else you may want. I cooked up some shrimp, and voila! Dinner is served.
I only talk about dinner salad because not only is it what we have eaten every day for dinner in June, but there is usually a point when CFO asks me “What’s for Dinner?” and the “salad” response results in a downtrodden, disappointed “oh,” to which I correctly, and justifiably respond with “Oh I am sorry, did the KING want his WOMAN SERVANT to make something ELSE FOR DINNER!?!?!?” Again, I digress.
There is a point when salad is just not exciting, so we gotta try to make it exciting. Keep it simple, keep it tasty, and order wine in bulk.