You don't often hear people say, "Now that's a great tasting piece of lettuce!" But once you've had a salad made with really fresh, homegrown lettuce you'll know that those leafy greens can pack a lot of flavor.
Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. It sprouts quickly and can be grown in both spring and fall. Once temperatures begin to rise in late spring and early summer lettuce will bolt and begin to taste bitter, but there are a few varieties that are more heat tolerant such as Red Sail and Simpson's Elite.
Lettuce does not offer much in the way of nutrients, but it is a great source of roughage so it is an important element in our diets.
The Executive Chef, Angela Guiffrida, at Deerpark restaurant on the Biltmore Estate gave me this recipe for a spring salad "bouquet." It is an elegant way to present a spring garden salad and the candied pecans are a tasty addition.
- assorted baby lettuce leaves
- 2 roma tomatoes
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 egg whites
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tbs. dijon mustard
- 1 tbs. celery seed
- 4 cups oil
- 1 small onion
- salt and pepper to taste
Start by making your lettuce bouquet. Slice the Roma tomatoes and trim away the center meat to form rings. Layer several lettuce leaves on top of one another, roll them in a cone shape and secure with a Roma tomato ring. Repeat the process until you have the amount of lettuce bouquets that you need. Set these aside while you prepare the pecans and vinaigrette.
To make the pecans combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tbsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, and 1 tbsp. cinnamon; stir well and set this aside. Lightly whip the egg white. Fold the pecans into the egg white. You want the pecans to be just coated. Toss the coated pecans in the sugar mixture and then spread them out evenly on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
To make the vinaigrette simply place all the vinaigrette ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender and puree. While the processor is running, slowly add oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Before you are ready to serve, garnish each lettuce bouquet with candied pecans and dress with the vinaigrette. Edible flowers such as pansies, violets or rose petals are also a nice touch. And fresh in season fruit can be added as well.
Recipe provided by Executive Chef, Angela Guiffrida Biltmore.
Time to prepare: 25 minutes.