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Green leaves, healthy habit

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  • 7 minutes of reading
Lettuce of different types, watercress, endives, radicheta, arugula, mache. Fresh, healthy, fragile, trembling leaves. There is a lot to choose from and they serve more than just salads.
Galen called lettuce, the quintessential ingredient in salads, the herb of the wise and recommended an infusion of lettuce leaves before going to sleep. The test should be done in times of crisis, less anxiolytics more lettuce tea.
One of the infinite myths about these leaves relates that Venus, to forget Adonis, whom she had just lost, lay down on a bed of lettuce (undressed). This soporific virtue of lettuce made the Romans, who in the beginning ate it at the beginning of a meal, serve it at the end, so as not to nod off in the middle of those exaggerated banquets.
After the Empire, lettuce and other herbs were considered common food. But Aristoxenes of Tarrento, a sensual philosopher and musicologist, watered the lettuces in his garden with wine and honey to harvest them at dawn the next day. Aristoxanes was, undoubtedly, a gourmet.
In any case, there is some truth in the properties recognized by the ancients: it has magnesium, in addition to other mineral salts, as long as it is from the garden and not from the factory.
Crisp and juicy romaine lettuce was introduced to France by Rabaleis, who brought the seeds from Italy.
In Argentina there is purple lettuce, curly endive and the other white lettuce with fat leaves that can very well replace endives in lean times (now) and the wonderful butter lettuce, which until a few years ago was what one even asked for. It was good to get to Uruguay. Its pale and fleshy leaves make it unbeatable. Alone, with nothing more than a few drops of first-press extra virgin olive oil. It displaced the modest Creole lettuce, that of the mixed salad, and the head lettuce, with less flavor. In any case, you can very well cut the austerity of any lettuce by adding walnuts and slices of fresh pears to a salad.
I did not find the bitter radicheta, of Italian origin, outside of Argentina. Foreigners love it when they try it, especially if it is young, from the first sprout and is mixed with grated carrot that balances the bitterness or with onion. No better company for a steak eye with a glass of Malbec. It accepts a touch of garlic and combines very well with butter beans, as they are still served in legendary grills in Buenos Aires (Chiquilín, for example). The famous Argentine actress Marilú Marini, who lives in Paris, passed on to me a type of great grandfather: crush , a potato boiled on fresh radicheta leaves, only with extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper. Zen delicacy.
Escarole, curly escarole and endives were born from wild chicory. The Egyptians cultivated it and the Romans discovered it when Cleopatra and Julius Caesar landed in Rome. Will it be suitable for love?
Escarole is bitter and crunchy, and has a pale core, it is as good as curly escarole, a passion of the Provençals, who love to eat it with croutons rubbed with garlic and olive or with grilled goat cheese. Salade Lyonnaise is a paradigmatic French salad, more of an appetizer than a mere accompaniment. Topped with a poached egg, it is delicious.
The endive, as it has been called since the 13th century, is the tightly packed chicory and is a Belgian invention. It is born from a transformation of the chicory that a certain employee of the Brussels Botanical Garden obtained by chance, when he was caring for a wild plant. He couldn't believe it when he saw this spindle-shaped plant, with tight white leaves. In 1873 the miracle was introduced in France, very bitter, this condition was repaired by grafting and management in the orchard only after the Second World War, although it always retains that pleasant bitterness that is an inescapable part of its being. The way of production of endive is complex, hence its price.
A particularity of endive is that its taste changes depending on how it is cut: it is served in separate uncut leaves, one flavor. If it is cut transversely by another. Try and see.
As for watercress, Aristophanes already recommended it to obtain strength and courage. These properties are not mythical but real, it is rich in iodine, sulfur, potassium, iron and vitamin C. For fundamentalists, due to its intense, somewhat spicy flavor, it is not necessary to add anything. Not even salt. Put a bed of watercress under that juicy strip steak you're about to cut. The seasoning is the juice of the meat that barely caresses the leaves, a delicacy.
Arugula, the Italian arugula, or the French roquette, a Mediterranean plant from the cruciferous family, is fashionable in the world. They have a strong flavor, between metallic and almond, and an intense aroma. It was brought to Argentina by immigrants who consumed it all their lives before it burst into modern restaurants. Wonderful in salads when the leaves are fresh or as an aromatic herb, where it plays a very good role when seasoning meats or fish. Dolli Irigoyen invented a pesto, in which arugula replaces basil. This leaf is part of mesclun, that Mediterranean salad that combines greens with herbs.
Radicchio, a type of intense purple endive, is another vegetable that has been making a name for itself in the kitchens of homes and restaurants since the boa of Italian cuisine. It has a pleasantly bitter flavor, like endive, and its texture is meaty.
Mache, from the Valerianaceae family, has small round and tender leaves. In Spain they call it canons. Not very nutritious, with few calories but rich in cellulose and vitamins. It is used in salads or cooked like spinach, without water, just with the washing water. It looks good in a salad with walnuts, and in France it is used to stuff poultry.
But all these leaves give their best in salads with an appropriate vinaigrette. The classic French one consists of 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Make the vinaigrette in the bottom of the salad bowl, and then stir very well, until the salad is tired, as the French metaphorize, who add mustard (which must be previously diluted in vinegar) or herbs.
Personally, I am not a fan of balsamic vinegar to dress a subtle salad, that aromatic vinegar homogenizes and hides subtleties. In addition to extra virgin olive oil, olive oils flavored with walnuts or almonds can be used, it adds flavor without altering or invading. A good idea to replace vinegar in the dressing of any salad: rosé wine, as I saw Jean Paul Bondoux do. Vinegar, we know, scares away wine.
Croutons of bread spread in olive, pieces of blue cheese, crispy bacon, sautéed chicken livers are good ideas to turn a salad plate into a less ethereal starter. They also go well, especially with an arugula salad, pears cut into slices and grilled on the grill or dried pears (as for compote), for an escarole or endive salad with the addition of minimal pieces of gorgonzola or any blue cheese .

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