Lettuce Begin the Season

See, I told you the end of the school year got busy for moms. Now that it’s officially June the kids are entering into the go-to-school-but-in-all-reality-do-nothing phase of the year, but the moms are still running around like crazy people trying to tie a big, red bow on yet another school season. Yesterday, I overslept (read: 6:45 instead of 6am), didn’t do my post early in the morning as I have been doing lately and then proceeded to convince myself on an hourly basis all day long that I’d get to it. Never happened. I hope you weren’t too bored.

I mentioned that I’d have a recipe for you that went along with CSA offerings. I’m going to plan a CSA recipe day each week with the blog. While each farm grows different produce, certain things are grown at certain times of the year so (duh), and being the mystery-box reading mystic that I am, I am going to guess that you received lots of green lettuce in your boxes this week. I know I did. For the next few weeks, in fact, lettuce rules the roost. Green, red, bibb, boston, arugula, fresh spinach (not lettuce, I know, but a leafy-green nonetheless). Holy chlorophyll.

At first, you look at all this lettuce and are happy for all the salads you will be having and then you pause…and realize how many salads you will be having. And that’s the kicker with lettuce, it’s primarily salad material. It’s sort of a one-trick pony in the food world. Ok, you could put it on a pizza…but it’s still a salad pizza (delicious by the way). The second problem I discovered last year during the “salad weeks” was that you have to take care of it quickly. Salad greens wait for no one. Wash them, swaddle them like babies in damp paper towels and tuck them nicely into large ziplocks or forget it…these farm greens are so fresh that somehow, when they are out of their element and you merely just chuck them in the fridge, they wilt like by-gone movie stars.

This year, I was ready. My lettuces arrived and I was primed and raring to go. I prepped them, I babied them and now I just have to figure out what the heck to do with them. That’s where the other challenge of a CSA share comes in….since it’s a surprise as to what you are getting each week, you have to be ready to swing into action when it does appear. This produce is FRESH. It hasn’t been picked prematurely and then traveling like Forest Gump across the country to get to you. It intends to travel about 10 miles, land in your hands and be consumed at the peak of its ripeness. When it walks into the room, it also expects the world to stop and to receive your full attention.

*No pressure*

This first week I received:

-peonies…just need a vase for that one…phew! The blooms are actually so big on one variety in the bunch that they look fake, like clowns’ vest flowers that squirt water. I brace myself each time I walk by them.

-one bunch of spinach..easy to figure out…a filling for weekend calzones? sautéed side dish?

-one small bunch of arugula..easy..I’m the only one in the house that eats it

-2 radishes….comical in their arrival. Two radishes? Yes, that’s what happens when you share-a-share with someone. You split what the farm gives, so some weeks you end up with teeny amounts of some items, leaving you wishing for more; or at least a whole recipes-worth. C’mon. The killer last season was when the farm gave us ONE mini-zucchini bread several weeks during zucchini season. Split a mini-loaf? I think, reshaped, that would be a muffin. Are you kidding (yes, it was a nice addition to the week’s haul…)? Part of me wanted to totally be dishonest with my co-share and just not let her know that it was included when it was my pick-up day, it was so delicious. Have no fear, I was good and split it like a good co-share. Granted, that meant that each family got 3 mouse-sized slices…the girls and I just ate ours as we drove away from the farm. They lasted approximately the time it took to get down the driveway of the farm. My Leatherman knife (or LeatherWoman, as I call it) comes in handy for spontaneously slicing zucchini breads…and I’m sure that’s what the company intended them to be used for, too. Forget camping, emergencies or first aid…the ultimate suburban mom…ready for anything, including rogue zucchini breads.

– 3 scallions…again, comical. But they are large so three is probably just fine for one or two recipes.

-a big head of red leaf lettuce….so gorgeous I would almost plunk it in a vase and sit it on my table as a bouquet.

-a big head of  boston lettuce….again, gorgeous and…a lot.

LETTUCE TIME, she cries! Salad, salad, and more salad. Thankfully, our family has a pet rabbit and the surplus is well dealt with; BunBun makes out like a little white bandit during these weeks. In my fervor, though, to find a new use for lettuce, I came across…or shall I say, hunted…for a recipe like the one below. About five years ago, my husband and I went on a weekend getaway to Chatham, Massachusetts. One of my favorite little towns out there. By the sea, quaint, walkable…New England seaside at it’s best. Well, in the one of the restaurants that I can’t remember the name of (merde!) we had this amazing appetizer. It was so good that I actually wrote to Bon Appetit, requesting them to ask the restaurant for the recipe…you know that column that they have in the beginning of the magazine? Never got a response from the magazine, so I have been left trying to recreate it.

This is a good stand-in for that restaurant’s version…and a good use for all that lettuce! Enjoy~

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken, courtesy of Cooking Light

4 tsp. canola oil, divided
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
4 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 lb. ground chicken
2 Thai or serrano chiles, minced (*I left these out, fearing refusal of the whole dish by my anti-heat children)
1 Tb. fish sauce
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. lower-sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup basil leaves-chiffonade
1 Tb. fresh lime juice
4 lime wedges
Boston lettuce leaves (I’ve tried this with a variety of lettuces. Just need a leave with a good “cup”)

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tsp. oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; saute 2 minutes. Add bell pepper; saute 1 minute. Add garlic; saute 30 seconds. Remove shallot mixture from pan. Add remaining 2 tsp. oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well. Return chicken to pan over medium heat. Add chiles if using and cook 1 minutes. Add shallot mixture to pan. Stir in fish sauce and next 3 ingredients (through black pepper); cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove pan from heat; stir in basil and juice. Pile about 1/3 cup into each lettuce leave. Garnish plate with lime wedges.

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