Spring has finally arrived here in East Central Illinois. The daytime temperatures are reaching the low 70’s and the sounds of spring thunderstorms roll across the fields. The rain and warmth combine to begin the vegetable growing season.
One of our favorite early crops here at Five Feline Farm is leaf lettuce. Our preferred variety is Rocky Top blend both for the growth and flavor. This non-GMO seed blend is sourced from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Red Oak leaf, Green Oak leaf, Red Romaine, Redwing, and Black Seeded Simpson among other more rare varieties combine for a colorful salad.
Not only do we enjoy frequent salads from this crop, it is a popular item at the Farmer’s Market.
Picked young and tender, just a quick rinse and spin dry is all that is needed. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days stored in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel placed in the bottom to absorb any moisture.
This lettuce needs very little added to create a tasty salad. Our most recent bowl had a few crumbles of cheese, a sprinkle of pecan pieces and sliced grape tomatoes on top of a mound of freshly torn leaves. A simple dressing of high quality olive oil, balsamic glaze, salt and a couple of twists from the pepper grinder allowed the flavor of the lettuce to shine.
What is your favorite Spring treat?
About this time of year as the weather turns hot, lettuce in the garden will either turn bitter or bolt. This cool season crop is not suited to temperatures in the 80’s. Oft times we find ourselves with an abundance of this delicious and nutritious crop. It can turn into a zucchini type proposition where friends run from you when you approach with a bag (or ten) of lettuce. Unfortunately there is no good way to preserve it. Until now.
A long time ago I had a recipe for egg rolls that used lettuce instead of cabbage. That recipe is long gone so I began experimenting. This recipe takes a significant quantity of lettuce. The beauty is freezing the rolls to enjoy in the winter.
2 raw chicken breasts
1.5 inch piece of ginger
2 stalks of celery
1 small onion
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup finely diced sweet peppers
8 cups chopped lettuce
1 package egg roll wrappers
1/2 cup canola oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste
Cut chicken into large chunks and place in food processor. Add one inch pieces of celery and onion. Peel and coarsely chop ginger; add to food processor. Pulse until ingredients are minced. Sauté mixture in a large stockpot until chicken is cooked through. Add sesame oil and diced sweet peppers. Sauté until peppers are cooked, about three to four minutes. Add lettuce and cook until wilted.
Make egg rolls by placing a quarter cup of chicken mixture diagonally on wrapper. Fold bottom point over filling, then each side. Wet the edge of the top point with water, then roll up. Place each egg roll on a wire rack while rolling the rest.
Heat oil over medium heat. Fry point side down until lightly golden, turn and fry other side; about 30-45 seconds per side. Drain on a rack over cookie sheet. Repeat until all egg rolls are cooked.
Let cool and wrap individually in waxed paper or parchment paper. Freeze in ziplock baggies.
To reheat: place frozen egg rolls on rack over a cookie sheet. Place in cold oven and set to 350. Bake for 30 minutes.
Serve with sweet and sour sauce or soy sauce for dipping.