It's easy to pass over the piles of lettuce as we're walking down the market aisles, keeping an eye out for new arrivals as the seasons pass in the marché. Lettuce, salade or laitue in French, is the veg next door, a dependable stand-by that often gets overlooked. While few are craving salads as the chill of Autumn sets in, I love fresh lettuce or baby greens as a side for an emmental filled omelette or a simple homemade quiche. One of the best things about eating salads in France is that they are served with a simple, classic, time-honored vinaigrette.
Varieties of lettuce are everywhere you look this time of year- markets sell bunches of leaves ranging in a variety of shades of red and green. Just today I spotted a head of lettuce growing in a pot at my neighborhood community garden. Lettuce is actually all the rage these days, maybe it's time you gave it a second look?
What: Salade (lettuce)
When: November 12, 2012
Where: a market (or community garden) near you
How: Growing up in the U.S., I thought salad dressing only came from bottles- that undertaking the preparation of a vinaigrette or any other sauce was a herculean task to be taken on only by trained professionals.
Then I married a Frenchman, who whips up sauces and dressing like they're going out of style. Even after four years together, I'm still amazed at his ability to turn flour, butter, and milk into a béchamel that Julia Child would write home about.
I'm not ready to take on the béchamel, but it turns out that making a vinaigrette is really quite easy. All you need is olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallots, salt, pepper, dijon mustard and a little French touch.
As with most family recipes, the measurements haven't been codified for this version of the vinaigrette and instructions may vary depending on the resident French person, but this recipe is made simple by the fact that it is prepared directly in the salad bowl, with the lettuce being folded into the sauce afterwards.
Cover the bottom of your salad bowl with olive oil then add about 2 tbsps of balsamic vinegar. Add a few dashes of ground pepper and a pinch of salt, then toss in one chopped shallot . Finally, add 1 tsp. of dijon mustard and start stirring.
You want the consistency of the vinaigrette to be creamy, so if the dressing is too thin, add a little more mustard and keep stirring until it's all mixed in together. Once you have gotten a consistency and taste that you're happy with, fold in the lettuce and enjoy!