Lettuce, I Cannot Live Without You

Posted: 5 May 2009 in Food
Tags: , , ,

We joined a sort of CSA* this spring. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. In DC, the idea of a box of vegetables delivered to my doorstep was a temptation I couldn’t stop craving but also could justify paying for.  I won’t eat beets, who knows what else they might deliver, and why would I pay someone to gift me with a brussels sprout?  The answer?  I would not.   Sealing the deal was the effort going into getting those vegetables to me – gas for the truck, etc – vegetables that might well rot in the refrigerator in a wave of restaurant nights and lackadaisical cooking efforts.

It’s my downfall.  I’ll admit it to you.   I love the idea of vegetables, but not the reality of them.  Not the earthy flavor that creeps into some bites.   Not the wilted, wet blackening of lettuce.   Not the contortionist thinking when I try to determine what to do with something my mother never cooked.  I bring fresh veg home (and by this I mean only broccoli and green beans) and then I guiltily toss them after determining that we’re tired of tough broccoli or the black spots on the beans might be dangerous.  I know.   It’s criminal.

Charlottesville drew me in with the offer of a CSA drawing from multiple farms, offering a variety of pick-up spots (relieving me from the guilt of a door-to-door delivery) and providing a huge variety of produce.  After much debate (and by this I mean me telling her repeatedly I was going to do it and her nodding sympathetically), D and I agreed that we would commit.  Commit to eating our greens.

I’ve repented, mended my ways, found religion in this CSA.  I had no idea that rhubarb tasted good.  Historically, one bite of standard strawberry-rhubarb pie left me alternately scraping my tongue of sweetness and wondering why there was a slight vegetable taste.  My lettuce lexicon consisted of iceberg (ugh), romaine (bland), and arugula (bitter and not really a lettuce).  I’d never seen an actual beet.  It’s shocking, really, that my love of cooking and food could have resisted variety for so long.

Last week, we picked up spinach, beets, rhubarb, chard and red sails lettuce.  This was week three of spinach and so it went into a dip for a party (and by this I mean there’s a bodily limit to how much spinach a person can consume).  However, the generous addition of dip ingredients and crunchy bread made up for the side effects. The beets are awaiting a sweet potato/beet roast while the chard will be joining us in a parmesan prosciutto pasta.  We discussed the rhubarb at length (why does it look like celery?  Does it taste like celery?  Why are the leaves poisonous but not the rest?  What is it about strawberries? How can we avoid the sickly sweet berry/barb combination?) before tossing it into a rhubarb bread pudding.  In theory, this would be redeemable because D prefers bread pudding to even me and I prefer her happiness to everything else except yours.  It went into a bread pudding looking weird and celery-like and came out of the oven tasting delicious.  Horizons broadened?  Check.

The real star of last week’s haul was the red sails lettuce.  This beautiful cluster of tender, flavorful leaves trumped everything that had come before it (including both the apple butter and the honey).  We’ve eaten it as quickly as we could, testing the previous leafy limits set by the spinach.  I had no idea a lettuce could be anything so perfect.  Pretty, delicious, slightly sweet and useable all the way through.  I realize I was a hostage to iceberg as a child and only begrudgingly welcomed romaine into my life as an adult.  For having never met the red sails lettuce, I am deeply sorry.

Here’s to this week’s bounty.

*for local folks, we joined Horse and Buggy Produce a “local natural foods cooperative”

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Comments
  1. CSAs are wonderful for inducing you to cook more adventurously.

  2. Thanks much for the link! A CSA with multiple producers sounds fabulous.

    BTW, I love that one of your tags is “you’ve got to be kidding.” That would work well for all kinds of things.

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