I love dirty lettuce. Most people would think, yuck! Why would anyone like dirty lettuce? Well for one thing, if your buying from the local farmers market and the lettuce is dirty, you know it’s fresh, recently picked by the workers at the farm and brought by truck (not shipped across country), direct to you, the customer. There is nothing more satisfying than picking out a beautiful, huge head of dirty lettuce, greens or root vegetables.
A few weeks ago I went to the Piermont Farmer’s market and there were two stands that had beautiful fresh lettuce greens. Oh my, I couldn’t decide who to buy from, so I went to both stalls. At one stall I purchased a head of each type of lettuce. There was red leaf, baby romaine, red romaine, green leaf and a bag of fresh tender mesculine greens. At the other stall, they had a bag of five heads of baby romaine.
I ran out of those greens and needed more, so this past weekend hubby, daughter and I went to the Ramsey Farmers market where one of the vendors, Blooming Hill Farms, had wonderful bags of greens. All types, of baby lettuces, chard, mustard greens, escarole, well you get the message. They were so reasonably priced at $3 a bag. What a deal! It was less expensive than buying at the grocery store. I was so excited. There is nothing like fresh lettuce for a salad or to top a sandwich or wrap in a tortilla. But, you ask “how do I get all that dirt out of the lettuce so my salad doesn’t taste gritty.” Well I’m going to tell you how to do that. It will be a little bit of work, but just think it will be so worth it!
First, fill your sink, a clean bath tub, a clean bucket, a clean washing bin or even just a very large bowl (depending out much of the greens you purchased). I’m very lucky I have a huge farmhouse sink that my landlord installed. The idea is you need to make sure you have enough water to lift the greens off the floor of the “container”. Also, make sure you tell the people you live with, “Don’t throw any dirty dishes in the sink or decide to give the baby a bath in the tub with the lettuce, these areas are off limits until you’re finished.” You laugh, but think about it.
After you fill your “container” with water, trim off the cores from the bottom of the lettuce. If you have baby lettuces, you can just break them off. For larger heads you can rip off or cut with a knife. Spread the lettuce in the water and gently agitate the water and greens with your hand to loosen the dirt from the leaves. Add more water if you need to. Let them rest in the water for about 30 minutes giving time for the dirt to settle to the floor of the “container”.
After 30 minutes, gently scoop the greens from the top of the water (not from the bottom or you will add the dirt back to the greens) to drain in a colander. Make sure you have a plate under the colander to catch the water or it will be all over your counter, dripping down the side of your cabinets, all over the floor. I think you get the point. Drain the dirt and water from container and begin the process again.
Once you have drained the greens for the last time in the colander, you will need to spread the greens on a towel to dry. I used two baking sheets lined with tea towels. Top the greens with a few paper towels in order to soak up some of the moisture. Let this sit for about an hour to make sure the greens are mostly dry. My grandmother used to put them in a pillow case and swing it around. The kids think this is funny because all the water usually comes spraying out at the beginning.
The greens can be stored in a zip top bag with damp paper towels inside to keep the greens moist.
They are now ready to eat. Just grab a handful, make a simple oil and vinegar dressing with good quality olive oil, great vinegar, a little salt and pepper, top with some grated fresh carrots and/or cucumbers and those wonderful tomatoes you got at the market and you’re ready to rock a great market salad! Serve with crusty bread from the bread vendor.
I have included some photos at the bottom so you can see how it was done. Excuse some of the pictures, its hard to take a picture with one hand.
Also check my post and recipe for my Escarole and bean soup.