It’s June and lettuce plants are growing their heads industriously in our garden. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you about this super plant and show you how we use it in the kitchen. It’s perhaps not surprising that we have to thank the ancient Egyptians for the lettuce, they turned it from a weed and cultivated it for producing oil. Later it spread to the Greeks and Romans, who gave it the name lactuca, from which the English “lettuce” is derived. By the 18th century, many varieties developed in Europe that can be found in gardens today.
May King | photo: zserbo.com
These days lettuce is cultivated and consumed almost all over the world. There are hundreds of varieties of lettuce grown with differing harvest times. Lettuces have a wide range of shapes and textures, from the dense heads of the iceberg type to the frilly leaves of leaf varieties. It’s not hard to grow lettuce, it needs fertile soil, sunlight, a good supply of moisture and nutrients and most important, low temperature that prevents lettuce from flowering.
Iceberg | photo: zserbo.com
Lettuce is an excellent source of Vitamin C and B, contains lime, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron. In order not to lose these precious nutrients, lettuce is preferably eaten raw, but it can retain a part of its vitamin and mineral content when it’s cooked. Besides using for salads and sandwiches, lettuce is often prepared as a soup,too, in Hungary. The varieties May King or Iceberg are generally used for this purpose. It’s not a creamy soup, lettuce leaves are not pureed. The soup is thickened with roux and seasoned with garlic.
And, finally, a tip for that case if lettuce is bitter: don’t throw it in the trash, but cut off the peak of the end without letting the head fall to pieces and put the lettuce with its end down in a bowl of cold water. Let it stay for 1-1,5 hours and the water will help neutralize the bitter flavour.
- 1 head lettuce
- 1,2 l (~5 cups) water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp lard
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 tbsp sour cream
Separate the lettuce leaves and rinse them. Cook the leaves in salted water until soft.
In the meantime prepare the garlic roux. Heat up lard in a saucepan, add thinly sliced garlic and whisk 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour into the lard. Cook until roux reaches the blonde stage. Let the roux completely cool.
When the lettuce leaves are tender, ladle some liquid in the roux and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the soup and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Place sour cream in a small bowl. Add 2 ladles of soup and mix to combine. Pour the sour cream mixture into the soup while stirring continuously.
Serve with sugar and/or vinegar according to your taste.