If I could grow just one vegetable (and I really hope it never comes to this), it would probably be lettuce. And if I could grow just one variety of lettuce (and again, I really hope it never comes to this), it would have to be romaine lettuce. It combines great taste with perfect crispness, the best of both worlds. There’s nowhere around here I could buy a head of lettuce that comes even close to the buttery perfection of our lettuces, lovingly grown in our no-dig beds amended with lots of home-made compost.
In fact, I consider our homegrown lettuce so tasty that I often put it on the table ‘au naturel’. My children, though they will eat it (hurrah!), occasionally complain about the absence of dressing. Which is why I decided to challenge myself a bit this week and try different salads based on romaine lettuce.
First instalment is this vegetarian variation on Caesar salad. The dressing of this classic dish usually contains anchovy and raw eggs, so this is a little less pungent, simpler and lighter version. The reason I like it is that it competes less with the taste of the lettuce itself.
Romaine hearts with Parmesan and Lemon vinaigrette
from Deborah Madison: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
2 heads of romaine lettuce
1 garlic clove
salt and fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or more to taste
a handful of small croutons
Remove the outer leaves of the lettuces. Separate the remaining leaves, wash if needed and spin dry. Keep the smaller leaves whole and tear the large ones into bite-sized pieces. Put in a wide bowl.
To make the dressing:
Pound the garlic with 1/2 tsp salt in a mortar until smooth. Whisk in the lemon zest and juice, the mustard and then the oil. Pour the dressing over the leaves and toss gently until they are coated. Sprinkle most of the cheese over the leaves and toss again to coat. Divide the salad between four bowls or plates, sprinkle over the croutons and finish with the remaining cheese.