When I first brought lettuce home from the farmers markets I didn’t know how to handle it. A number of cookbooks and Food Network shows stepped me through it. Here’s what to do:
When you first get home from the market or pull from the garden, fill the kitchen sink with cold water. (I always swab the sink down with a little bleach and water first to make sure it’s clean). Put the greens in the water and leave them for 20 minutes or so, longer doesn’t hurt. This rehydrates the greens and cleans them as well.
Take them out of the sink a handful at a time and spin them in a salad spinner to shake off the excess water. I use an Oxo spinner and it’s held up to daily use for several years.
Now you can tear them into pieces for your salad. Tearing by hand parts the leaves along the cell lines; cutting slices across the cells which tends to make wiltier lettuce. Better to cut your own than buy a bag of lettuce though, so do whatever works.
I like growing, buying, and mixing a number of different lettuce types in the same salad. Local farmers sell green and red lettuce bunched together. In the spring you can get mixed spring greens which often include many flavors including sweet, tangy, and sharp. Arugula is often described as peppery, while romaine can taste slighly bitter.
Farmers sell lettuce starts throughout the summer. These are amazingly easy to grow, and you get the benefit of having fresh greens whenever you need a salad. You don’t have to pick a whole head either, you can pick a leaf or two off several varieties to make up an instant salad.
To dress your salad, try making your own oil and vinegar dressing! It’s called vinaigrette and it’s simple to make!