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CSA Unboxed: Lettuce

The bounty of summer is upon us, and CSA (community supported agriculture) shares and farmers markets are overflowing with fresh veggies. Join the Jew and the Carrot every other Monday for CSA Unboxed, a look at an ingredient you might find in your CSA box or at your farmers market booth, and some interesting ideas of what to do with it.

This year, my fiancée and I were thrilled to sign up for our CSA share. Although we live in New York City and have access to some of the best farmers markets in the country, the grocery store around the corner has a less than optimal selection of produce. So when the opportunity arose to join a CSA, we were very excited to not have to schlep all the way from Brooklyn to Union Square to get farm fresh vegetables. We were even more excited to join the Brooklyn Bridge CSA, which is sponsored by Pursue, and is part of Hazon’s network of close to 60 CSA sites around North America (and in Israel!). It really means a lot to us that we can be a part of a Jewish community that is making a statement with our purchasing power, a community that prefers to support local, sustainable farmers over national corporations.

We are now in the height of the summer harvest, and we love our CSA share. However, being a member of a CSA means that you don’t have as much choice as you might at the market or the grocery store. And for us, that means that we have been getting…lettuce. Heads and heads of lettuce. Green, red, curly, flat….they are beautiful, but oy! Suffice it to say that my appreciation for lettuce and its various varieties has definitely grown in the past few weeks.

Varieties of lettuce:

Today, lettuce is the most popular cold vegetable in the United States, and it grows in hundreds of varieties throughout the world. There are four main types of lettuce grown in this country:

Crisphead, or Iceberg, was renamed in the 1920s when it was transported under mounds of ice.

Butterhead, named for its tender texture, includes Boston and Bibb varieties.

Romaine, or Cos, is an oblong, dark, and crunchy lettuce best known for its place in Caesar salads.

Finally, Leaf, such as Green leaf or Red leaf lettuce grows with leaves that branch from a single stalk in a loose bunch rather than a tight head. The term mesclun describes a blend of mixed greens combined for their variety of texture, flavor and color.

Storing Lettuce:

Each week, I spend Wednesday evening washing a multitude of lettuce after picking up our CSA share. Lettuce will last longer if you take the time to wash and dry it before you put it in the refrigerator. A good salad spinner is a must, and you can pick one up for $15-$20 at your local store that sells kitchen supplies.

Remove the bottom of the stem end of the head of lettuce and place the whole head in the basket of your salad spinner.

Fill the salad spinner with water, and agitate the lettuce with your hands. Any dirt or other particulates should sink to the bottom of the bowl. Let the lettuce sit in the water for 3-5 minutes so that the dirt can settle.

Drain the water from the bowl, and spin the lettuce to remove excess water.

Place the lettuce in a zip-top bag with a damp paper towel. Close the bag most of the way, and store in the refrigerator.

Iceberg lettuce will last up to two weeks, romaine for about 10 days, and butterhead and leaf will last for three to four days.

Using Lettuce:

When you are ready to eat, take the lettuce out of the fridge and serve as a salad or on a sandwich for added crunch. Be creative! You can even grill or sauté your lettuce like other greens.

Homemade Salad Dressings

The best way to enjoy your lettuce is with some homemade salad dressing, I have included a couple of my favorites below. However the best way to make dressing is to experiment and try new things, so feel free to let your imagination run wild.

Honey Mustard Dressing

This easy and tasty dressing is great for first time home dressing makers.

Yield: 4-6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Dijon or spicy brown mustard
3 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other container and whisk until emulsified.
2) Drizzle over your favorite salad and enjoy.

The Basics: Ranch Dressing – from CHOW

Caesar Dressing – from CHOW
I made this vegetarian by taking out the anchovies (interestingly, the original recipe didn’t include them, and substituting Dijon mustard for Worcestershire sauce.

Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette – from Premeditated Leftovers

Some of the information in this article was sourced from the Just Food Veggie Tip-Sheet Book. Thanks to the folks at Just Food for all of the amazing work that they do!

Daniel Infeld is the Food Programs Fellow at Hazon, and a graduate of Clark University. Daniel lives in Brooklyn, and he loves spending time with friends and loved ones around the Shabbat table, and he is looking forward to spending time with you at the Hazon Food Conference

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