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All About Sturdy Lettuces

Often darker in color, thicker in texture and stronger in flavor than delicate greens, sturdy lettuces such as watercress, frisee (or curly endive), chicory and dandelion greens have become increasingly popular. The shapes and flavors of sturdy lettuces are diverse, from refreshingly peppery watercress to frilly, slightly bitter frisee to pungent, long, jagged dandelion greens.

Though sturdy lettuces are available throughout the year in many areas, they have their best flavor at local markets in the winter months. Their leaves stand up to strong flavors such as bacon, olives and anchovies in salads, pasta sauces and side dishes. They are excellent sauteed breifly until wilted or stirred into soups during the last few minutes of simmering.

Selecting
Choose heads or loose leaves of sturdy lettuces with pert, fresh-looking leaves free of wilting or browning. For less bitterness, avoid any with large, thick stems (medium stems can be removed).

Storing
Sturdy greens can be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Preparing
Wash sturdy lettuces just before using: immerse them in a large bowl filled wtih cold water and then lift them out, letting dirt and grit settle to the bottom. Repeat as necessary. Dry well in a salad spinner or by shaking the leaves gently in a kitchen towel. Remove any large roots, wilted or yellow leaves,, and thick stalks.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).