I always enjoy salad, but never quite as much as in the summertime, when its crisp, light, refreshing-ness perfectly fits the bill for almost every meal.
Typically, I load our salads with whatever veggies are happening at the farmers market and, as the season progresses, our own garden. But sometimes, amidst awe for the tomato and cucumber and radish and carrot, it’s easy to overlook the star of the show.
What would a salad be without it? A whole lot less crunchy and refreshing, to be sure.
But lettuce can add more than texture, be more than a supporting player for other garden treats; lettuce can actually have flavor.
That’s right — tasty lettuce is not an oxymoron.
Buy a beautiful head at the farmers market — isn’t the one above the most swoon-worthy thing you’ve ever seen? — or better yet, grow some of your own, and you’ll see what I mean.
Lettuce, good lettuce, is damned delicious, with beautiful sweetness and brightness and even, with darker leaves, earthiness. It can have a pleasantly mild bitterness. It can be buttery, nutty, and herbal.
All that, certainly, can make a good salad great.
But lettuce can even be a solo act.
In fact, one of my favorite salads is the exact opposite of loaded. It’s just lettuce, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper — a straightforward preparation designed to enhance what’s already enticingly there.
It’s not so preposterous. I mean, if a perfect tomato salad needs only a perfect tomato, olive oil, and salt, why should a tasty green salad need more than tasty greens?
A lettuce-only salad is simple, to be sure. But let us not confuse simplicity with boringness. Simplicity can be stellar; as long as the lettuce is, too.
Which, if you go beyond the store-bought stuff, it truly can be.