Thursday, January 7, 2010

hello 2010: lots and lots of lettuce!

For the next couple of days, Austin will be lucky to see temperatures climb above freezing, with lows predicted in the upper teens. Yesterday I lugged a dozen potted plants into the somewhat breezy shed, figuring that provided slightly more protection than leaving them outside covered with a sheet.

I made room in our unheated little mudroom for a few of my favorite potted plants, but I had to make even more room for lettuce. I harvested ALL the lettuce, kale, and chard so it wouldn't turn to mush tonight.

Although I gave some lettuce to neighbors and stuffed as much as I could into our refrigerator, my biggest stock pot, a champagne bucket, and a big salad-spinner bowl are still overflowing with lettuces and greens. So I'm going to spend the next few hours making a spicy kale-chard-sweet potato soup and my first lettuce soup. And big Caesar salads, of course.

I harvested just a few carrots because the rest are likely to survive the hard freeze, plus I covered them.


texasdeb said...

Ooooh - I have lettuce envy now. I covered most of mine (may be foolish with this many days of below freezing - live - and lose - and learn!) but harvested one small bunch. Lettuce soup! So interesting - hope you will post the recipe/technique?

Iris said...

Hi Deb-- I looked up several Lettuce Soup recipes and combined them all into my own version today, based on what I had available.

It turned out pretty darn good, although it seemed liked A LOT of prep work for the payoff. Here's my version today. (Hope it makes sense--I rarely write it down as I go.)

**Need immersion blender (or blender or food processor)
approx 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus a few pats butter, optional)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into approx 1" pieces
handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste
coriander (2-4 teaspoons) and cumin (1-3 teaspoons) to taste
pinch nutmeg and big pinch cinnamon
quart of vegetable stock (plus approx 1 cup water if needed)
3-6 quarts lettuce, coarsely chopped (I used speckled Romaine)
approx 1/3 cup half and half (probably optional)

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil and butter over medium-low heat for a few minutes until soft. A
dd sweet potatoes and continue sauteeing and stirring for a few minutes.

Add stock and seasonings, stir, and cover. Bring to boil, then reduce and simmer (covered) for 20-30- minutes until sweet potatoes are completely tender and almost falling apart.

Add parsley and all the lettuce, stirring over medium-low heat until lettuce fairly wilted. Cover, reduce to simmer for a few minutes, adding extra water if needed--consistency should remain fairly dense.

Turn off heat. Use immersion blender to thoroughly puree. Stir in half and half and cook on low heat (covered) for 5-10 minutes. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes before you eat it.

texasdeb said...

Looks great, thanks!

Linda/Central Texas Gardener said...

Wow, next year I'm going to start my lettuce sooner to get a crop like that. I double-covered my lettuce row and most look okay. A little daunted but I think still alive. Thanks for the recipe ideas, too!

Iris said...

Deb and Linda--You're welcome! Renee Studebaker (Renee's Roots) told me about lettuce soup. I'd never heard of it before and was surprised how many recipes were available online. We're still eating the leftovers!

Kurt said...

Maybe you could post your Caesar dressing recipe, too? I don't know if it's easy to replicate but I can testify that it's delicious.

Iris said...

Kurt--Thanks! It's the lazy person's "homemade" Caesar salad dressing recipe because it uses jarred mayo, albeit organic. You know how bad I am at measuring, but here's a rough idea of my recipe:

-Juice of one lemon (might need a little more)
-at least five cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste with salt
-approx. tablespoon anchovy paste (I use a tad more)
-two-three tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
-approx. one cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
-dash pepper (I used cayenne because black pepper hurts my stomach)
-approx. one teaspoon Dijon mustard
-approx. one cup organic mayonnaise
Whisk all these together well. Then continue to whisk while slowly drizzling in about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Keep whisking until all is well blended. Refrigerate and shake before using. Voila!

Annie in Austin said...

How funny, Iris - it's called lettuce soup, but how could you even notice the lettuce in with the sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, and seasonings? That might make paper towels taste good!


Iris said...

Hi Annie-- Believe it or not, you CAN actually taste the lettuce (probably because there's so MUCH of it in there), although it's fairly subtle. I understand that individually those ingredients might sound like strong flavors, but it's amazing how they all work together to create an overall mild, tasty soup!

Leslie said...

Just getting to reading your post but I had to say wow, you had an awesome lettuce harvest. Good to see you got to it before it froze. The lettuce soup recipe looks very tasty and a great way to use up large amounts of lettuce. Take care!

Iris said...

Hi Leslie--I was pleasantly surprised when I uncovered the veggies and saw that they all look like they'll survive. I'm still glad I harvested ALL that lettuce! Cheers!