One of my favorite local lettuce varieties this spring has been Speckled Mountain Trout Lettuce from David’s Produce in Ellerbe. One of the great things about the farm to table trend is the variety of fruits and vegetables being produced and readily accessible. Lettuce is a great example. There are basically six types of lettuce: butter head, Chinese, crispy head, loose-leaf, romaine and summer crisp. In North Carolina, many farmers grow butter head (Green Haven Hydroponic Plant Farm in Carthage), loose-leaf and romaine (David’s Produce) and other varieties across the region.
May is National Salad Month. Think of lettuce as a base for some amazing spring salads. Lettuce is a natural and fresh food that has all kinds of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Lettuce has 247 percent of your recommended daily amount of vitamin A, 147 percent of vitamin K, 10 percent of iron, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If lettuce is the canvas, you can be the artist and create a great side dish or a meal in itself.
As a child, I can remember my mother attempting to grow her own lettuce and thinking it tasted like crunchy green water and dirt (make sure to wash it), but over time I grew to like it. You can easily grow your own in a small planter or garden box. You will taste the difference; it is nothing like grocery store iceberg.
Build your salad wisely, and add in other fruits and vegetables. If you want to make a meal, add a lean protein like grilled chicken, fish or lean beef. Play with texture; add nuts, sprouts or raw vegetables for a crunch, sautéed onions or peppers for savory flavors and fresh berries for sweetness. Consider a creamy goat cheese or tangy feta for additional calcium. Your choices are endless!
The one pitfall many of us fall into is the dressing. Many store-bought dressings are loaded with fat, sugar, sodium and hydrogenated oils. Read the labels and consider making your own. With all of the flavors in your salad, you can use a basic olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, lemon juice and salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette.
Speckled Mountain Trout Lettuce
& Tuna Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
2 cups Speckled Mountain Trout Lettuce (or any variety)
1 piece grilled Ahi or Yellow Fin Tuna (4 to 6 oz.)
4 spears grilled or blanched asparagus
½ cup fresh strawberries (diced)
1/8 cup toasted almonds (for topping)
1/8 cup crumbled goat cheese (or any cheese)
Makes 1 serving, double for two. Wash lettuce thoroughly and pat dry. Layer the lettuce in the bottom of your bowl or plate and top with grilled tuna, asparagus, strawberries, and goat cheese. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and drizzle dressing over the top.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tsp. lemon juice
¼ cup smashed strawberries
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil
Morris, owner of Rhett’s Restaurant, can be reached at (910) 695-3663.