All About Spring Greens

Arugula...also know as Rocket, has a dark green jagged leaf with a peppery, mustard bite that is full of pizazz. It is wonderful enjoyed on its own or as a bright addition to any salad, it partners especially well with Belgian endive and radicchio.

Belgian Endive.. has creamy ivory leaves that are "blanched" by growing the baby plants in complete darkness to keep them from turning green. Its spear-like leaves are compact and tightly bundled. It has a delicate bitter taste that is a connoisseur's favorite fresh or braised in broth and butter. To retain its pale appearance after slicing, toss with a little lemon juice.

Curly Endive...Features a ragged leaf that varies in color from a dark green edge to a pale yellow center. Its taste also varies from the slightly bitter edge to the mild center, giving it distinctive contrast.

Escarole...is in the same family as the Belgian and Curly Endive, with a thicker and broader leaf and a milder taste.

Frisee...a member of the chicory clan, had fine, curly, feathery leaves that are pale on the outer fringes, getting progressively paler yellow, to its outer white creamy leaves. It has a mild, nutty flavor and wispy texture.

Boston...and the smaller Bibb. are classified as "butterheads" of the lettuce world. These buttery, soft greens are familiar ingredients in sandwiches as well as salads.

Mache or Lamb's Lettuce.. has a rounded spoon-shaped leaf that is famous for its nutlike taste. It is often included in baby greens for its soft nutty flavor offsets the more strident nature of the bitter greens in a mix.

Radicchio...has a crunchy, assertive, pleasantly bitter taste that really stands up to a robust dressing. It hails from the chicory family and resembles a small cabbage with ruby red leaves that are veined in white.

Watercress...ranges the gamut in taste from mild and sweet to sharp and hot., but generally it is known for its great peppery nature. Watercress is a versatile green with a spicy punch of flavor.

Romaine and Iceberg...are still the stalwart king and queen of the lettuces. Both add texture and crunch to salads. Long may they live!

Storage

To maximize enjoyment of fresh salad greens, always buy them the day you are serving them. But since that is not always practical, store them, after they've been washed and dried, with a scant amount of water left on their leaves.

Wrap them, loosely packed, in paper or cloth towels, place them in a roomy plastic bag and keep them in the crisper drawer for 3 - 5 days.

Preparation

Wash and wash again! With the exception of compact heads of lettuce, like Belgian endive, radicchio, most greens need a thorough rinsing. And, just as important, a thorough drying. Use a salad spinner for the best results.

Serving

Salad greens are usually served washed, dried, chilled and cut or if you are a salad purist, torn in bite size pieces. Always dress your salad right before serving, otherwise it may wilt and turn into a soggy failure.

The information here was obtained at the Central Market, Austin, TX. If you are ever in Austin, take the time to visit this market, I think it is the best market of its kind that I have ever been to!

 



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