Faced with six types of lettuce on display, a woman wondered aloud which to buy.
“This is all ours, just harvested this morning,” said Danni Hayes of Pete’s Produce Farm at Westtown School in West Chester.
“Woo-hoo!” the shopper replied. “That’s why I’m here.”
Share her enthusiasm and sample spring greens straight from the farm.
“It’s usually the first crop that comes out of the field early on,” Hayes explained. “I never eat salad until we start harvesting our own because there’s such a big difference in flavor.”
Her favorite: Buttercrunch lettuce, “also known as Bibb or Boston.”
“It’s so good. I love it,” she said. “It’s so tender and fresh.”
“There’s a lot I like about Bibb lettuce,” agreed executive chef Brenda Kieffer of Kieffer’s Appliances in Upper Gwynedd. “It’s a delicate lettuce, but it’s a strong lettuce.”
Try a simple salad of Bibb lettuce, fresh chives, parsley, tarragon and homemade vinaigrette.
“It’s just so springy,” she added. “It’s a very versatile lettuce.”
Mix it with red leaf or other tender greens for “a berry, berry good salad,” featuring strawberries and almonds.
“Everybody seems to like it a lot,” described Kieffer, who also teaches at Montgomery County Community College’s Culinary Enthusiast program. “There’s nothing better than a spring salad, in my opinion.”
Chef Michael Falcone of Heart Food Truck shared a recipe starring another seasonal sweetheart — asparagus.
“It’s very easy. It’s very light. It’s just a couple ingredients,” he said. “I don’t like to weigh down the greens too much.”
“Sherry vinaigrette or lemon vinaigrette pairs really well with that,” suggested Falcone, whose lettuce choice “depends on the farmer” and what’s available. “You could even add egg to it if you wanted to.”
At Pete’s Produce Farm, the shopper made her selection, smiled and promised to return soon — leaving Hayes dreaming of dinner.
“I’m going to have salad tonight,” she said. “And I’ll probably mix the red romaine and the Bibb, so I get all my antioxidants.”
Simple Spring SaladIngredients2 heads of butter/Bibb/Boston lettuce (I like the hydroponically grown)
3½ tablespoons of good extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon or chervil
InstructionsGently separate the leaves, leaving the smaller leaves whole and the larger leaves gently tear in half. Wash under cold running water and pat dry or wrap up in a cotton towel or paper towels while you finish the rest of the salad. You want these leaves nice and dry.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette. Put the lettuce, chives, parsley and tarragon into a large salad bowl, add the dressing, toss and serve.
Be sure to gauge the amount of dressing used on this salad. It should not be drenched, and when the salad is finished, there should not be a puddle of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.
RECIPE COURTESY OF EXECUTIVE CHEF BRENDA KIEFFER
Tender Greens with Berries and Almonds
Ingredients2 teaspoons strawberry jam (I use the “all fruit/no sugar” kind)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper taste2 cups strawberries, halved or quartered if large
¼ cup of slivered almonds, toasted
4 to 5 cups mixed greens - nice tender leaf lettuces are the best for this (rocket, red leaf, Bibb, Boston)
InstructionsWash and dry the salad greens and tear into a large bowl. Place jam in a small bowl. Whisk in vinegars and water. Slowly whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the toasted almonds and berries to the greens. Toss with the dressing to coat.
RECIPE COURTESY OF EXECUTIVE CHEF BRENDA KIEFFER
Spring SaladIngredients2 heads spring lettuce of your choice
2 thin slices country bread or two handfuls good, homemade coarse breadcrumbs
½ garlic clove¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
¼ cup (or small handful) grated pecorino cheese (Parmesan will work as substitute), plus additional for garnish
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (¼ cup)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakesFreshly ground black pepper to taste
InstructionsIf using the bread, toast it until golden brown on both sides and dry throughout. Tear into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs or crumbs to your liking.
Mince the garlic and ¼ teaspoon of salt into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add ¼ cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper flakes and black pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour the dressing over the lettuce and toss very well. (The dressing will be thick and needs a lot of tossing to coat the leaves.) Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with the breadcrumbs, additional cheese and a drizzle of oil.
RECIPE COURTESY OF PETE’S PRODUCE FARM
3 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce sherry vinegarSalt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups mixed greens, divided12 spears asparagus, grilled, divided
4 radishes, sliced, dividedInstructions
Make sherry vinaigrette by whisking olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Dress greens and divide between two plates. Top with asparagus and radishes. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste. Serves two.
Optional: Top with a fried egg for a more substantial salad.
RECIPE COURTESY OF CHEF MICHAEL FALCONE