If you have never tasted grilled romaine lettuce with olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of minced garlic, then you're in for a treat with this and other lettuce varieties. The ancient Greeks and Romans cooked chicory, and French chefs braise whole heads of chicory and smother them with a white sauce. Those preparations and many others are possible with all types of lettuce.
Lettuce soups range from smooth, creamy types to savory broths. In lettuce and garlic soup, a head of lettuce simmered in stock forms the base of the soup, with a bulb of cooked garlic, herbs and seasonings adding additional flavor once you blend all the ingredients together. In an Asian-inspired soup, lettuce cut into thin strips and added just before serving, joins stock cooked with rice, beef slices and mushrooms.
Light Up the Grill
Whether you cook it indoors in a grill pan or outdoors on the grill itself, a quarter wedge of romaine or radicchio lettuce with a bit of char and plenty of seasonings makes a tasty side dish for grilled meat or poultry. Season the lettuce before grilling, and cook each side for four to five minutes until the lettuce is crisp-tender -- soft, but with a little crunch. Sprinkle crumbled blue, goat or feta cheese on the lettuce right before serving to balance the bitterness of the greens.
Heat Up the Wok
Lettuce adds a fresh, earthy flavor and texture to the beef, chicken, pork or vegetarian, stir-fries you normally cook. Use a sturdy lettuce, such as iceberg or romaine, and cut the lettuce into large, 4-inch pieces. Add the lettuce to the pan near the end of cooking, as the last ingredient, at the same time you add any sauce to the pan. The lettuce only takes a minute or two to cook until it is crisp-tender.
Better Braising With Butter
Lettuce cooks in a small amount of liquid or butter in the same way as fennel bulbs or celery. Cut any leaf or compact lettuce, from romaine to red leaf to bibb, into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the lettuce. Then cook the lettuce over low heat until it is soft all the way through. Sprinkle the lettuce with salt, pepper and lemon juice, and garnish it with crispy, garlic bread crumbs or blue cheese crumbles.
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Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.