Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What to do with slightly wilted lettuce, and other stuff

The beginning of the growing season is both exciting and challenging, from a culinary perspective. Great fresh things are coming from the garden, sometimes faster than you can actually cook and eat them!
Lettuce is a great example. It grows in abundance early in the season, and is not fresh and crispy for very long.
So, what to do with the slightly wilted lettuce?
Hopefully you've stored it well. But if it is looking a bit worse for wear, try sauteeing it or braising it.
Sauteeing simply means cooking it at a high heat for a brief amount of time. Braising is a 'combination' cooking method, which means it is cooked by a dry method first, then a wet method. Think pot roast (seared in oil then simmered in a liquid) or any kind of stew (including chili!). Cooking lettuce that is not-yet-garbage-but-not-showcase-material is a good way to enjoy the product.
You can change the character or personality of the dish with the kind of fat you use or the cooking liquid, or the herbs you choose. I've included some samples below.
Tonight for dinner we had braised lettuce with Cajun Baked Tofu and BBQ dipping sauce and baked potatoes. Instead of tofu, chicken could be substituted.

Cajun Baked Tofu
Substitute chicken breasts or thighs and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
1 package firm tofu
1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
Cooking oil spray
BBQ sauce (optional)
1. Place the tofu on a plate and place another plate on top of the tofu. Place something heavy on the plate (such as canned goods) as a weight. Let stand 10 minutes to press out excess water.
2. Whisk together the Cajun seasoning, canola oil and soy sauce in a large shallow bowl or glass pie pan. Cut the tofu into 3 large slabs, and then cut each slab on the diagonal into 6 triangles. Place the tofu triangles in the marinade and turn them over to coat all sides. Let marinate 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
4. Place the tofu triangles on a baking sheet. Bake 15- 20  minutes until crisp. Serve with barbeque sauce, if desired.
Leftover Sandwich: Toast a whole wheat hamburger roll. Slice 1/2 a tomato and a radish. Sandwich the tofu, radish and tomato in the roll, sprinkled with a bit of kosher salt.


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