Lettuce is always one of the first additions to my shopping cart. Whether romaine or field greens or arugula, I use it in salads, sandwiches, sautés, and stir-fries. I've even been known to dip a piece of lettuce in BBQ sauce or mustard as a snack. Really!
So I was so sad one day to find not a single appealing head of lettuce or box of greens in my local A&P. All I saw was a head of wited-looking butter lettuce, which I bought reluctantlyI also bought different, more appealing produce like asparagus, tomatoes, and broccoli to balance its mediocrity.
Didn't work. The bad lettuce was just too much, and it simply wasn’t worth it. I decided that no lettuce is better than bad lettuce. Still, this just left me with a bunch of salad toppers and no salad, I thought. Wrong! I soon discovered that an absence of lettuce would leave me with a better salad than ever before.
The next night, gazing into the refrigerator, deciding what to feed my gaping hole of a stomach, I took out everything I could find. Cherry tomatoes, half a cucumber, leftover chicken and roasted asparagus, and even some watermelon soon crowded my small counter. I took out my cutting board and went to town. After cutting everything into cubes, halves, or otherwise bite-size pieces, I slid it all into a bowl and sprinkled a generous portion of shredded Parmesan cheese on top—everything tastes better with Parmesan cheese on top. Maybe it wasn’t a salad but I was pretty excited.
Next was the question of dressing. Luckily, when omitting lettuce, you are assured that everything composing the salad will add its own unique flavor. I stuck to the basics: oil and vinegar (I chose extra-virgin olive oil and champagne vinegar), salt and pepper, and when I realized that the watermelon was soaking up a lot of the vinegar, I dropped in a little pesto to stir around. My lettuce-less salad was everything I wanted: sweet, savory, fresh, and balanced with nearly all food groups represented. All it needed was some crusty bread on the side. I didn’t want it to end!
This got me thinking: summer is just beginning and lettuce-less salad options abound. I figure that with a little EVOO and vinegar, salt and pepper, and maybe some fresh herbs, pesto, or tapenade—and some Parmesan cheese on top—nothing in my fridge will go to waste.
Here’s a recipe for another lettuce-less salad, one of my favorites year-round. It’s great with any simple protein for dinner, or to bring to a picnic or summer potluck. Allrecipes.com and others have similar recipes; go with whatever’s in your fridge, I say! I’d recommend making it an hour before you’re ready to eat, so the flavors have a chance to meld, but seeing as I can’t control myself enough to wait that long I’d understand if you couldn’t either!
Mexican Summer Salad
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed (I used Goya)
1 can of golden corn, drained and rinsed (again, I used Goya, but any will do, and any white or yellow fresh corn—raw or cooked—would work as well!)
2 ripe avocados, pitted and cut into small cubes
1 carton of cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
Juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl
2. Add next four ingredients
3. Mix thoroughly