Friday recipe: when you’re loaded with lettuce

June 20, 2014 —

Sky of blue, sea of green: lettuce, that is. The spouse’s garden has been pushing the stuff out of the ground faster than Bugs Bunny can say, “What’s up, Doc?” Not that I’m complaining; home-grown veggies of any kind are wonderful, and they’re the best when they’re husband-grown.

I can see [lettuce] for miles and miles and miles...

I can see [lettuce] for miles and miles and miles…

That still leaves the challenge of using all those green goods, though. I love lettuce in wraps and sandwiches for that extra little crunch and texture, but otherwise the leafy stuff demands dressing. Not the store-bought kind, though – I’m utterly of like minds with food writer and chef Catherine Walthers, author of Raising the Salad Bar (Lake Isle Press). I know you don’t need one more cookbook in your kitchen, but I highly recommend this beautiful tome for its highly creative and wonderfully varied recipes. Her salads run the gamut from seafood to slaws, potato to pasta, healthy grains and can’t-beat-‘em beans.

The hallmark of the book, in my opinion, are the ways Walthers flavors the ingredients. You won’t find gloppy, high-fat “salads” swimming in mayo or Kraft, nor will you encounter boring, I’m-on-a-diet-and-eating-like-an-unhappy-rabbit recipes. Cajun shrimp and corn salad with lime-chile dressing? Oh yeah. Mexican sweet potato and black bean salad? Bring it. Thai quinoa salad? You’d better get out of my way.

Today, though, let’s discuss dressing, because I have lots and lots of lettuce, remember? Walthers is a huge proponent of making your own, because they’re fairly easy, quick to put together and – most important – taste far better than store-bought. The one caveat I have is to use good ingredients, including herbs, spices, vinegars and oils. Below are two Raising the Salad Bar versions.

Basic red wine vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 6-7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 good pinches or about 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Walthurs suggests varying the vinegars, including apple cider, white and Champagne.

Vietnamese lime-chile dressing

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chile sauce, or more to taste – try sambal oelek chile paste or the almighty Sriracha
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • Salt or Asian fish sauce

In a blender, combine the brown sugar, garlic, chile sauce, mint leaves and lime juice until the mint is finely chopped. Add the oil slowly while the blender is still running; add a large pinch of salt or a dash of fish sauce, to taste. Blend until the dressing is creamy.

Endlessly curious and easily entertained, Barb Dietrich Boose loves being a member of the friendly, fascinating DMU community and its creative communications team. The University's publications director and DMU Magazine editor, Barb is always on the hunt for story ideas, good books and new recipes to try out on her family, such as her surprisingly tasty pork-and-bean bars.