Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Braised Red-Tip Leaf Lettuce

Shopping online for organic produce (in fact, all your food) is not a unique concept these days. Google it and see for yourself.

However, I'm a visual and tactile person, which means I prefer to see and touch, sometimes even smell, vegetables and fruit before buying them.

Nevertheless, this past week I tried something different: rather than buy my produce at the grocery store, I ordered it online.

You see, I'd picked up a Mile High Organics coupon at an event, and once I'd checked out their website, I decided to give them a go, after all, their philosophy reads "delivering the Farmer's Market to you."

Fresh organics delivered to my door sounded enormously appealing, especially since it read as though the produce is sourced from local farmers -- though there is a statement on the website that says "local when available."

I was excited to receive my starter box containing a small bunch of bananas and carrots, a pound each of oranges and d'Anjou pears, 2 tomatoes and a red-tip leaf lettuce (despite that none of these items were grown locally).

The contents of Mile High Organics "starter bin" are fixed. In other words I didn't have a choice of fruit and veggies and also, I wasn't allowed to swap out any items for something else.

If you've read my blog, you'll know that I do my best to shop and eat by the seasons -- that's what I advocate for budget, health, and sustainability--therefore, if I'd had my druthers, I would not have picked oranges, nor the bananas and tomatoes (all of which were grown outside the US), given that we're barely into spring and these items are summer fruits.

Anyway, the goodies arrived on my doorstep late in the day. Normally the "starter bin" with delivery is around $19, but with my coupon it was a grand total of $5.95 so upon opening the tub and seeing several pounds of fresh produce, it felt like Christmas in April.

Unpacking the contents I noted that the bananas, pears, tomatoes and oranges would need to sit out for a few days since they were far from ripe: the bananas were dark green as were the pears, and the tomatoes were an insipid yellow-red, while the oranges were as hard as a tennis ball.

I snapped off a carrot from the bunch, washed it and ate it immediately; it was deliciously sweet with a full-bodied carrot flavor. The head of red-tip leaf lettuce was enormous. I washed it, left it to drain in a colander, and then wrapped the leaves in a linen kitchen towel, storing the bundle in the fridge.

I doubted that I'd eat the whole lettuce in salads before the leaves started to brown around the edges and so I decided to braise it and eat it as a hot vegetable.

Drawing from the classic French dish, braised lettuce and peas cooked in chicken stock and finished with cream, I improvised and created the following:

Braised Red-Tip Leaf Lettuce
1) Wash and drain a head of lettuce (use half a head for this recipe).
2) Wash and chop a couple of spring onions and toss into a pan with either a dab of butter or some light oil like olive or canola.
3) To the pan, add your choice of spring vegetables i.e. carrots, asparagus, peas -- such as snap peas, snow peas, or frozen shelled peas.
4) Gently saute on med a few minutes, then add washed and drained lettuce; saute a few more mins.
5) If you have stock on hand, pour in about half a cup or enough to gently simmer the veggies and lettuce until they're just soft. Use water if you don't have stock, or if you have an open bottle of white wine, use half water and half wine.
6) To finish the veggies, add a slurp of cream (optional) or simply season to taste.

To Serve: This makes a great side to fish or chicken, or spoon it over a grain such as millet or quinoa or your choice of noodles.

I love this dish since it's a great way to prepare lettuce if you have an abundance on hand but don't fancy eating lots of cold salads. And this week I made it twice in the effort to use up the red-tip from Mile High Organics.

The starter bin was an interesting exercise in purchasing organic produce online. Because I had a coupon it was certainly economical, but without a coupon, I wouldn't do it again.

Online shopping is convenient, and it's not as stressful as in-store shopping, yet it can't satiate my preference to eye, touch and sniff produce before buying it.

Plus, if like me, you place a high value on buying local and thus shopping and eating by the seasons, there's no guarantee that produce purchased online is going to either local or seasonal.

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