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Salad Greens
Salad Greens
The "green salad" or "garden salad" is most often composed of leafy vegetables such as lettuce
varieties, spinach, arugula, or escarole. The salad leaves are cut or torn into bite-sized fragments
and tossed together (called a tossed salad), or may be placed in a predetermined arrangement
(called a composed salad).
Lettuce

Of all the greens available for salad making, four are considered types of lettuce.
The first is iceberg, also known as crisphead.  It has a round, compact pale-green head and will last for
over a week in the refrigerator because it is 90% water.  Generally the mildest of the lettuces, iceberg
lettuce is valued more for its crunchy texture than for its flavor. It is typically eaten cold and raw in
salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and in many other dishes. Iceberg lettuce can be very satisfying
when garnished with a heavy dressing such as Buttermilk-Blue Cheese.
The second type of lettuce is romaine or cos lettuce. The heads consist of long pale-green leaves that
are crisp in texture. When preparing romaine, it is best to discard the dark outer leaves as well as the
darker tops of the inner leaves. The crispest, most flavorful parts of the romaine are the lighter leaves
near the center.  You will sometimes see these labeled as romaine hearts.  Romaine pairs well with
other crunchy salad ingredients such as cucumbers and onions, as well as fruit and nuts.  It is the
traditional lettuce used in Caesar salad.  Romaine is best served with creamy dressings or dressings
that have some richness.
The third type of lettuce is the butterhead variety.  It it also sometimes referred to as butter crunch
lettuce.  Butterhead lettuces have small, round, loosely formed heads with soft, buttery-textured
leaves ranging from pale green on the outer leaves to progressively smaller pale yellow-green on the
inner leaves. The flavor is sweet and succulent.  Because the leaves are quite tender, they require
gentle washing and handling. There are 2 main varieties of butterhead lettuce.  The first is Boston or
butter lettuce and the second is Bibb or Kentucky limestone.  Both varieties lend themselves to lighter
dressings because of their soft texture and mild flavor.
The fourth type of lettuce is the loose-leaf variety.  This variety of lettuce does not form a compact
head.  The leaves on a head of loose leaf lettuce arrange themselves around a central stalk and are
generally large and curly.  The leaves are soft, tender, and mild in flavor. To use a whole head, you
can twist the base of the lettuce to separate the leaves. Loose leaf varieties include red leaf, green
leaf, Ruby, and Oakleaf.  In the market, look for heads with firm leaves and no signs of discoloration,
slime, or spotting.  The dressing should not overpower these delicately flavored greens, so choose
something mild or creamy.
Salad Greens

In addition to the four types of lettuce there are many other greens that fill our salad bowls.  These are a few of the more common ones.
Arugula is also called rocket or rucola.  When young,
the dark green leaves are small and tender, but as
they mature they become large and a bit tough. 
Arugula is a member of the mustard family but it is not
as bitter as mustard greens.  Its taste is peppery and
a little nutty.  The best dressings for arugula are
citrus-based or those enhanced with sweeter
vinegars like balsamic.
Belgian Endive is in the chicory family.  It grows in
compact torpedo-shaped heads about 5 inches long
with white leaves tipped with pale yellow green.  The
leaves have a mild crunch and are bitter in taste.  To
use, cut off the end and separate the leaves.  Endive
does well with a dressing that tempers the bitterness.
It does well with creamy dressings, mustard-based
dressings, or with sweeter citrus dressings.
Chicory is also known as curly endive or frisee.  It has
jagged spidery leaves that grow in open heads from
a compact center.  The leaves are crunchy and
assertive in flavor - bitter, but not as bitter as Belgian
endive or radicchio.  Chicory needs a strong-flavored
vinaigrette, preferably based on red wine or sherry
vinegar.
Dandelion has long, deeply notched leaves that tend
to be slightly bitter.  It is good raw or cooked. 
Dandelion greens need a strong dressing and pairs
well with chopped hard-boiled eggs and crisp bacon
or pancetta.
Escarole is also in the chicory family.  It has broad flat
dark-green leaves in compact heads and has a bit of a
crunch.  Escarole can be eaten raw or cooked and
needs a full-flavored dressing.
Mache is also known as lamb’s lettuce.  It is mildly
sweet with little round dark-green leaves.  Mache needs
a mild dressing.
Mesclun is a mix of assorted small, young salad leaves. 
(The word comes from the Latin for ‘miscellaneous.’)
The traditional mix includes chervil, arugula, leafy
lettuces and endive in equal proportions but modern
mixes may include other greens.  Mesclun is usually
sold in a plastic bag or container and is sometimes
labled "Spring Mix."  It will last up to 5 days in your
refrigerator.
Microgreens are tiny versions of fully grown leaves and
are harvested when very young, about a week old. 
They are small but intense in flavor and can be
expensive.
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family and is native to the Veneto region of Italy.  The three types are named after towns in the region.  Treviso has elongated red and white leaves (the green version is Pan di Zucchero.)  Rosso di Verona or Palla rossa is a round, compact head of red leaves veined with white. Castelfranco comes in rosette-like heads and the leaves are white and pale gold with small veins of red and pale green. Radicchio is bitter and nutty in flavor.  It can be eaten raw or cooked.  When eaten raw it needs a dressing that is sweet or nutty.
Spinach is a perennial favorite; the leaves are bright
green.  It comes in large bunched leaves with stems and
needs to be well rinsed as it tends to be very sandy.  It
can also be purchased pre-washed in bags.  Baby
spinach leaves are smaller and more tender.  Avoid
purchasing spinach leaves that are starting to yellow.
Spinach takes to a variety of dressings as it is neutral
and mild.
Watercress has small round dark-green leaves on
crunchy stems.  It comes in bunches, some with roots
attached.  It is very peppery and nutty.  Watercress
offers a good contrast in fruit-based salads and also
pairs well with endive.  It does best with citrus
dressings.
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