Tuesday, May 6, 2008
It’s great to have a gardener. My gardener is very serious and he doesn’t say much. He doesn’t like being interrupted when he’s working, either. Sometimes I watch him work from the kitchen window when I’m washing the breakfast dishes. I recommend everyone have a gardener, fresh lettuce is so good. My gardener is my husband.
Many months ago, he sewed Tom Thumb butterhead, Sucrine romaine, and Valmaine romaine/cos lettuce seeds, he said to “overwinter”. I had my doubts. Even if the lettuces made it through the rains, they would not survive the dog. The seeds sprouted, but week after week, month after month, the sprouts did not grow any bigger.
The gardener announced spring had arrived. The skies were still grey but he was sure. He said the lettuces were almost ready. I looked out the window but the sprouts were still the same size. Then the sun came out and it was time to eat salad.
It’s more fun to go to the garden for lettuce than to the grocery store. I harvest the heads of lettuce with a bird’s beak paring knife, and I try to be gentle since the lettuce is so tender. The lettuce tastes. It is crunchy and juicy and sweet, it hardly needs a dressing. The slugs are making a concerted effort to eat our lettuce before we do.
I separate the green leaves and slowly, carefully wash each one. Then the leaves go for a dizzying ride in the salad spinner. Not a drop of water to dilute their flavor or to keep the dressing from sticking. Sometimes I eat the innermost hearts as I go, but I always save at least one for the gardener.
I dress the whole leaves lightly, sometimes with olive oil from Provence and fleur de sel, sometimes with a mixture of olives and capers. Delicious.
¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives
¼ cup drained capers
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the olives and capers in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times.
Makes plenty. Keeps for several days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before use.