Friday, February 20, 2009

buttery greens…

In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

In an effort to find the freshest ingredients for my salads that I crave this time of year, I ran into a wonderful green-house grown Butter lettuce. I am usually very skeptical of greenhouse grown products, but I have tested Living Butter Lettuce over the past few weeks and it performs and tastes like a winner.

Butter lettuce originated in the Mediterranean basin. Other varieties of the Mediterranean lettuce have been developed in the United States. The best-known varieties in North America are Bibb and Boston lettuce. How do you tell them apart? Boston's leaves are wider and lighter green than Bibb lettuce.

Butter lettuce, as its name suggests, is so tender that it melts in the mouth like butter, particularly the heart, when the lettuce is picked at dawn. It forms a loose head of large leaves resembling an open rose. The flavor of butter lettuce is very subtle: it lends itself to countless creative pairings.

I usually find my favorite greens, butter lettuce at the farmers’ market in early spring it has recently become available year round. Live-Gourmet’s controlled harvesting environment with growing conditions for this product provide an environment that is free of pesticides and field debris.

Butter lettuce is a loose-leaf head with a mild, sweet flavor and a tender but crisp texture. This lettuce, as most deep greens contain large amounts of vitamin A and K as well as helping to cleanse and detoxify our systems.

Although this product comes to as alive with the root system intact, you need to choose it as you would just as any other lettuce. Make certain that the leaves are a rich green without discolorations or bruising.

I love this lettuce for this pre-spring season as I usually only cook for one to three people per meal, so it holds up very well because it is a living entity. Even in the dead of winter, feels like you are harvesting fresh lettuce from the garden.

I came across a bit of interesting culinary history and nutritional anthropology that I can across was that Butter lettuce contains lactucarium, which has effects similar to those of opium.
Because of these sedative properties, it was recommended for treating insomnia, intestinal spasms and palpitations.

History tells that the emperor Domitian "tortured" his guests at banquets by serving them a head of lettuce at the beginning of the meal. Not allowed to nod off in front of his imperial majesty, they were forced to fight off their sleepiness for hours.
In culinary classes, we are taught how to clean each variety of lettuce for the standard salade verte. It is acceptable to use a knife to chiffonade (cut into ribbons) Romaine lettuce. But all other lettuces had to be torn by hand so as not to bruise the leaves. I usually abide by these principles, but sometimes you have to take some chances and experiment.

butter lettuce-buttermilk chicken wraps


Butter Lettuce

Chicken Breasts (poached, oven roasted or grilled on the bone with the skin on, but any excess fat removed.)



low fat Buttermilk ¼ cup

low fat Mayonnaise ¼ cup

Blue Cheese crumbled 2 Tbsp
(I used Nordic Creamy Blue, but any quality Blue Cheese is fine.)

¼ tsp Cardamom

kosher Salt

freshly ground Black or White Pepper

fresh Parsley, chopped fine

fresh Chives, chopped fine


Cook and cool Chicken breasts.
Bone and dice into bite-sized cubes.

Mix mayo, buttermilk, crumbled blue cheese, cardamom, chives, parsley in a bowl and stir ingredients.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

Add diced chicken and combine with dressing.

Refrigerate for at least ½ hour, this will give the flavors a chance to develop.

Rinse and pat dry butter lettuce leaves.

Fill one side of the butter lettuce leaf with a scoop of the Buttermilk Chicken Salad, being careful not to overfill and wrap as though the butter lettuce leaf was a tortilla.

Plate the wraps with colorful tomatoes and cucumbers, and any other veggies of your choice.

Garnish with minced chives and serve.

This recipe is a filling and delicious way to eat healthy and not sacrifice taste. The buttermilk tenderizes the already tender chicken, the cardamom and pepper gives it enough kick without being too spicy.

This is a perfect lunch to tote to work. I make this the night before and pack the clean butter lettuce leaves separate from the prepared salad.

I also make the buttermilk dressing, add a squirt of fresh lemon and add Albacore Tuna or diced cooked shrimp or lump crabmeat.

For a different way of plating the Buttermilk Chicken Salad, roll each leaf of Butter Lettuce and chiffonade in 1/8” ribbons.
Sprinkle with a bit of Diamond Crystal kosher salt to keep lettuce crisp.
I plated the chiffonaded Lettuce as a bed for the Chicken salad and added some spicy pickled tomatoes, cauliflower and olives.

I hope that you will try Living Butter Lettuce until the first tender Spring lettuces appear at your local farmer’s market.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait…!


Culinary Cory said...

I can't wait until Farmer's Market season when the fresh lettuces and veggies are at their peak.

A Brush with Color said...

Mmmmm. Butter lettuce is a big fave for me. I love it--it really is the nicest texture to eat, and goes well with anything. This sounds delicious and so simple. Beautiful photos too! Love the wine glass. Nice touch!

Peter said...

There are so many kinds of lettuces! I try to change from one to the other! But some are of course nicer than the others! This is certainly one of them!

chez aurora said...

Hi Terrie, great post & photos as usual. What a great thing to know about these lettuces, that they are indeed still living ... good for prana! I love your dressing for the chicken salad...the blue cheese and cardamom combo is something that I must try next time! Thanks for the recipe.


Camera Crazy said...

The salad looks so delicious. Thank you for the history of the lettuce.My mom always said to tear the lettuce--something to do with a knife blade making it the lettuce turn brown. These days Bruce loves chopped salad and as such I mostly ignore her advice.