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My Mama's Wilted Lettuce


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And it has nothing to do with outdoor shagging--though, somewhere behind the cobwebs in my mind, I do have some vague memories. . .

No. I love May because the world is green, new sprouts are coming up in the garden, asparagus graces my table, the lightning bugs are lighting up the pasture across from the house, and whippoorwills are sounding off about poor Will's trip to the woodshed all night long.

And tonight I had a wilted lettuce salad. Here is the recipe.

Walk out to the garden, and take a big bowl with you. Pick your lettuce--if you pick it clean now, leaving out the wilty leaves and stray weeds and ladybugs and feathers blown over from the chicken yard, it will be much easier to wash later.

Fill your bowl full of water from the hose, and rinse the worst of the mud off the leaves. Then, go inside, and fill the sparkling clean sink with water.

Wash that lettuce just like you used to wash your doll clothes--swish it back and forth in the water. No soap, please.

(Just realized that not all of you will have that childhood image--you guys, wash your lettuce like you used to wash your socks in the dorm sink. Again, no soap.)

Lift it out of the water, into your salad spinner. No salad spinner!?!?--run out and get one. Invaluable tool for garden grown leaf lettuce. But for now, use a big colander.

Let the water out of the sink, rinse all the grit out, and repeat. If it is really dirty, do it again. Your fingers will be all shrinkly from having them in the water so long, but that's ok.

Spin your lettuce dry in the spinner, or wrap it in a clean towel, take it outside, and spin it around in circles till it is dry. Sit down till you quit being dizzy, and write a note to post on the fridge, "Buy a Salad Spinner."

Put more of that lettuce in your serving bowl than you think you will need, because it shrinks as it wilts. Slice up the sweet heart of a stalk of celery.

Dice 3 or 4 slices of nice bacon, and fry them til just brown in a pan. Add a quarter cup of cider vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar to the hot bacon grease. Toss in about a half cup of diced Vidalia just at the last moment.

Pour that hot mixture over the leaf lettuce, stir it up, and set a plate over it for a minute, while you grab some salad bowls and forks.

Wear a bib, or you will get bacon grease spots on your shirt. The bitter lettuce loves the slightly sweet dressing, the bits of bacon add a salty chew, and the celery and onion crunch between your teeth.

I can't believe I ate the whole bowl. :wub:

sparrowgrass
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And it has nothing to do with outdoor shagging--though, somewhere behind the cobwebs in my mind, I do have some vague memories. . .

And tonight I had a wilted lettuce salad.  Here is the recipe.

Oh sure! Bring up one of my favorite treats, and around here we don't even think about planting lettuce until after Memorial Day. :sad:

SB (and as for ...... :rolleyes: )

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I bought a mixed packet of seed from Burpee. Oak leaf and deer tongue were two of the varieties, but I believe there were 5 all together. One looks like buttercrunch, one looks like plain old green leaf lettuce, one is red. I think I threw in some iceberg seeds, too, which doesn't make a head here, but I can get some nice green leaves off it before it bolts.

I also picked a little spinach, and something that might be arugula--another mixed packet called Niche Salad. I won't buy that one again--it has some parsley, some very bitter mustard, and carrots. Who puts carrots in salad mix? I mean, I like carrots in my salad, but the carrots will not be ready to eat til weeks after the lettuce is gone.

I learned to make wilted lettuce salad from my mom, and she learned from her mom.

sparrowgrass
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Or redleaf. And frilly Simpson. And best of all, if you can get away with it: the tiniest, just-unfurled leaves of curly mustard, with the bittery-ness not QUITE developed, just enough to punctuate all the mild shyness of the little lettuces.

My venerable salad spinner is a battered old Tupperware-ish thing, bright orange dinged here and there by errant knifeblades or droppage onto this slate floor. It is missing one picket of its little cog-fence inside, and so does not spin perfectly unless clasped tightly to your bosom just SO as you madly whirl the top knob. As the spin slows, it drawls to a slow close with increasing clackety sounds, like some old tractor ending a hard day in the field.

This sublime dish was the favorite of a neighbor, called "Wil-did Leddis Sallid" by her family. She sometimes threw in a chopped boiled egg or two, and the lagniappe was the saved-til-last treat: dipping that big ole tablespoon into the bowl, hearing it scrape gently across the crockery, and spooning up some of the luscious, vinegar-y, bacon-y bowl-drippin's onto your cornbread. :wub:

A wonderful restaurant here makes the dressing, bringing it out hot and fragrant in its own little pitcher, for pouring onto your spinach salad, which already has slices of the whitest lengthwise mushrooms, rings of red onion, and a little dish of crumbled bacon for sprinkling after the dressing goes on. It can be made into quite a production, each addition leading to the next, with the whole warm dressing/cool salad mixed at the last second and eaten while the flavors and temperatures are still at their best.

I'm thinking a table set out under our new carved-out arbor space, candles flickering in time with the fireflies, and wide soupbowls of this salad set before each guest, a gentle-poached egg atop, with a quick grind of pepper, and some thin cornbread wedges snuggled alongside for sopping up the last delicious juices.

I can't BEGIN to think what course could follow that.

Yep. Tis the season.

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I feel your pain, Steve. You may know that I lived in Ely for five long gardenless years, and every March, my heart would fly south without me, looking for dirt and warm breezes.

Ah, well. I will envy you in August, when the humidity and the temperature here both hover in the high nineties.

sparrowgrass
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I'm thinking a table set out under our new carved-out arbor space, candles flickering in time with the fireflies, and wide soupbowls of this salad set before each guest, a gentle-poached egg atop, with a quick grind of pepper, and some thin cornbread wedges snuggled alongside for sopping up the last delicious juices.

I can't BEGIN to think what course could follow that.

Yep.  Tis the season.

Another bowlful, silly.

And then strawberry shortcake, made with rich, crunchy, buttery pie crust instead of biscuits or (godforbid) those yellow cake things you buy in the grocery store.

Wanta get fancy schmancy with the shortcake? Roll out the pie dough. sprinkle it with coarse sugar and roll it again, lightly, to press the sugar in. Cut out with cookie cutters--big stars and crescent moons look very pretty. Top it off with whipped cream.

sparrowgrass
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