HOW TO TURN A HEAD OF LETTUCE INTO A MAIN DISH
I’m sure everyone knows how to make a salad, but in the coming weeks we’re going to be inundated with lettuces and greens and pretty little side salads are not going to be enough to use them up. Over the years, I’ve come up with ways to use my lettuce, with just a few extra ingredients, as a main dish. To call it a main dish, I need it to:
–Supply me with a reasonable amount of protein. I’m not a nutritionist—and if any of our nutritionist-members want to correct me, please do—but from what I’ve read, I think I need about 45 grams of protein a day. Spread over three to five small meals a day, my main dish salad has to have 10-15 grams of protein in it. The three cups of torn lettuce in my salad supply about 2.5 grams of protein, so I need at least 8, and up to 12 or 13 more grams of protein. The amounts of protein listed below are rough averages.
–Taste good. The lettuces we get in our CSA shares are tastier than average—but I still need more taste and texture to make me happy.
–Fill me up. A bowl of lettuce is not going to keep me going until the next meal; I need to add something more filling.
Here are some of the things I add to my 3 cups of chopped or torn greens (I use lettuce, sometimes greens like mizuna or mustard greens, spinach or arugula when we get it, and herbs.
–Beans and peas: lot of protein—average is about 8 grams per half cup. My favorite is the chickpea. Soybeans have the most, 14 grams in a half-cup. Agata & Valentina sells roasted soybeans that are crunchy and delicious.
–Nuts and seeds: again, protein-packed. Almonds have 7 grams of protein in one-quarter of a cup. Toasting them for just a minute makes them taste even better.
–Cheese—crumbled feta or chevre, shaved parmesan or dry jack, chunks of cheddar, shredded mozzarella—or any of the many interesting and yummy cheeses available through Lewis Waite Farms or in local stores. Cheeses average 7 grams per ounce.
–Tofu—absorbs salad dressings, sort of like manna. And has lots of protein.
–Animal protein—for non-vegetarians, just an ounce or two of grilled, roasted, or any other preparation of meat, poultry, or fish. Flaked salmon and strips of grilled chicken are two of the easiest additions. Leftover coldcuts—smoked turkey, roast beef, and ham, for example—are also easy and get rid of little bits of food that might otherwise go to waste. Leftover barbecued chicken or spicy sausage add strong flavor as well as protein. Chopped or sliced hardboiled eggs are also good.
–Grains—A half-cup of carbs often makes the difference between hunger and satisfaction. Rice, quinoa, couscous, pasta, as well as lesser-known grains like faro, wheatberries, barley (look at Lewis Waite’s grain list for other choices)—are both interesting and filling.
–Other vegetables and fruits—Tomatoes, of course, though they are usually not in our shares the same weeks as lettuce. But any raw or cooked vegetables go a long way in making a salad a main dish. Fruits—dried, cooked, or fresh—are also nice.
–Salty things—olives, capers, and anchovies add a unique flavor
–Dressings—You’ll find a nice batch of dressing in Recipes from America’s Small Farms, on pages 54-55 as well as throughout the book. Dressings add interesting flavors, and if they’re full of dairy (buttermilk, bleu cheese or protein-based ingredients (such as tahini or peanut butter), they also contribute significant protein.