When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, the saying advises, but what if life gives you (too much) lettuce? A problem of the “embarrassment of riches” variety for sure, with an elegant solution to remedy it: cream of lettuce soup.
Starting with the lettuce, whether raw or cooked, there’s quite a range of nutritional value. Here’s a comparison chart from the World’s Healthiest Foods website, which may help direct your next purchase.
Nutrition Comparison of Salad Greens – Based on a 1 cup serving
|Salad Greens||Calories||Vitamin A (IU)||Vitamin C (mg)||Calcium (mg)||Potassium (mg)|
|Butterhead (Bibb and Boston||7||534||4||18||141|
Nutritionally speaking, it’s unfortunate that iceberg remains the top seller in the US, however romaine and other darker greens are seeing a comparative rise in consumption rates. And, with the popularity of salad bars and the introduction of packaged salads, all lettuce types are enjoying increased sales.
Lettuce has also gained ground with the growing interest in gardening and local foods. It’s a great choice for home growing (even does well in a container), where you can make sure it is grown organically. Lettuce ranks 11th out of 53 on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce, placing it in the “buy organic whenever possible” category due to the high pesticide use in conventional growing practices. Food poisoning is an additional concern with mass market lettuce, after several recent cases of Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria are alleged to have come from “bagged lettuces” from large scale producers. Selecting organically grown dark leaf varieties from small scale and/or trusted local growers offers the highest quality produce.
In the US, we tend to think of lettuce only as a raw food. However, in China, where far more of it is grown, cooking varieties are favored. Last summer during the height of lettuce overload season, I cooked some up in a soup, but didn’t write it down. This year, with thanks to Emeril Lagasse and Local Kitchen Blog for publishing confidence-boosting recipes, I made this version.
Cream of Lettuce Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1-2 onions, chopped
- 6 garlic scapes (or 2-3 garlic cloves, if scapes are not available), chopped
- 2 medium-sized potatoes, washed, unpeeled and diced
- 2 tablespoon chives, chopped, plus more cut into several inch long “stripes”
- large pinch of fresh or dried thyme
- large pinch of fresh or dried oregano
- 4 cups water or vegetable stock
- 2 heads green lettuce (any variety), washed and roughly cut
- 3/4 cup half ‘n’ half or cream (possibly more to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (or more to taste)
- several grinds of nutmeg
- pasta stars (optional)
- Warm Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat, and melt butter. Add chopped onions and garlic scapes, reduce heat and allow to caramelize.
- Add potatoes, chives, herbs and cover with water or stock. Simmer until potatoes are soft.
- Add lettuce and give the soup another few minutes to simmer until lettuce wilts.
- Turn heat off and add half ‘n’ half, salt, pepper and nutmeg. In the soup pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a counter-top blender or Vitamix, blend the soup until smooth. Adjust consistency with additional water or stock if needed.
- Reheat, if necessary, and serve with garnishes such as fresh herbs, croutons, toasted bread with melted cheese, grated Parmesan, pine nuts and/or a drizzle of additional cream (if your soup tastes too bitter, additional cream will help).
On the occasion of Independence Day weekend, I served this soup with pasta stars and chive stripes. For a second serving, I went with chive fireworks.
Lettuce celebrate the stars and stripes!