Nicked shallot leads to a salad

May 28, 2008|By ROB KASPER

It was a salad that got started by mistake.

I was in the garden, weeding between the shallots, when the blade from the weeding tool accidentally nicked a shallot. It was an inadvertent harvest.

This happens more often than I care to admit. I will be puttering around and I uproot something or step on some promising crop. It is a part of gardening, and I have learned to salvage dishes from these unwitting moves.

The other day, for instance, the suddenly harvested shallot became part of the dressing for a salad.

The lettuce for the salad came from a head of oak-leaf lettuce that had been covered with straw. This is a lettuce with red-tipped leaves that look like oak leaves. I planted it last fall, covered it up during the winter, and it sprouted new growth this spring. It was growing in a spot that, in the new spring rearrangement of the garden, had become a straw-covered path.

The lettuce patch became a path after I covered it with my bales of freshly acquired straw. Hauling the bales of straw to the garden was an adventure.

Because fire regulations prohibit straw from being stored in the city, I had to buy the bales from a garden-supply shop beyond the city line, Hollins Organic Products on Falls Road. I put them on the roof of my car to transport them to my rented plot in the community garden in Druid Hill Park.

I lashed them atop my PT Cruiser with rope. I once made the mistake of putting bales inside my car. Once a bale of straw enters your car, it latches onto the upholstery and never lets go. It will take weeks of vacuuming and repeated trips to the carwash to remove the bits of straw. Who knew growing vegetables involved so much neatening?

As I puttered along the streets, the wind kicked up bits of straw from the car roof and sent them airborne. My car looked like a hay wagon, but I got to the garden without incident.

Putting straw on your garden slows the growth of weeds, or at least hides them from view. When I scattered the straw in my garden, it also ended up hiding the lettuce.

I was down on my hands and knees, planting tomatoes, when I spied the shoots of oak-leaf lettuce peeking out from underneath the newly deposited straw. If the lettuce stayed in the path, it would get trampled. To save the lettuce, I had to cut it.

I brought the lettuce home and washed it several times in the basement sink. There was a lot of straw mixed in with the lettuce. It had to be picked out.

Then I dried the lettuce on paper towels and made a salad with it, tossing the nicked shallot into the dressing.

I would like to say that the lettuce and shallot had amazing flavor. The truth is they were pretty ordinary.

Nonetheless, I savored each bite of the salad. This was, after all, my first harvest of the season, even if it was an accident.

rob.kasper@baltsun.com

See Rob Kasper each Wednesday on ABC2/WMAR-TV's News at Noon.

Red-Leaf Lettuce With Grapes, Cheese and Garlic Chips

Serves 4 to 6

DRESSING:

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup sherry vinegar (can substitute fresh lemon juice)

1 tablespoon minced shallot

salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

SALAD:

1/3 cup olive oil

10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 head red-leaf lettuce, or oak-leaf lettuce, bruised outer leaves removed, remaining leaves washed, dried and torn into thirds

3/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved

1/2 pound manchego cheese (can substitute parmesan cheese), shaved

In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients.

For the salad: In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic slices and saute, stirring constantly to prevent burning until they are light brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce and grapes. Stir the dressing well, add just enough to moisten the ingredients (you will have some dressing left over) and toss to coat. Place the lettuce and grapes on a large platter or individual plates, sprinkle with cheese and garlic chips and serve.

From "Lettuce in Your Kitchen," by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby

Per serving (based on 6 servings): 421 calories, 8 grams protein, 39 grams fat, 10 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 27 milligrams cholesterol, 537 milligrams sodium

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