The Secret to Crisp Lettuce

Your lettuce is lifeless

Is your lettuce withered and shriveled? We'll show you how to perk things up. By Tim Cebula

Nice lettuce is a mighty pretty thing, until it shrivels and withers 'twixt store and salad bowl-or, worse, rots and blackens around the edges. Once opened, even relatively shelf-stable bagged lettuces suffer this fate. And lettuce leaves are prone to nasty bruising when roughly handled. This is among the most delicate of foods.

The main storage problem is usually too much moisture. Wet lettuce spoils faster as water condenses on the leaves and suffocates them. More moisture also means more gases, like ethylene, which speed up ripening and spoilage in fruits and vegetables. But here's the rub: Lettuce needs some water to stay crisp-otherwise leaves dry out and droop.

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The solution: Keep lettuce moist, but just barely. Loosely wrap a head (or the contents of bagged lettuce) in slightly damp paper towels, and seal in a zip-top bag. This will absorb excess water without dehydrating the leaves. Store in your crisper drawer-the best spot for consistent, controlled humidity. Don't wash lettuce until you're ready to use it.

Romaine, Asparagus, and Watercress Salad with Shrimp

Ingredients

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
2 cups (1-inch) cut asparagus
7 cups torn romaine lettuce
1 cup trimmed watercress
Wheat Rolls with Orange Butter

Preparation

1. Combine first 8 ingredients; gradually whisk in 3 tablespoons oil.

2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; cook 2 minutes. Add juice mixture; cook 1 minute. Stir in asparagus. Place romaine in a large bowl; toss with shrimp mixture. Divide salad among 4 plates; top each with 1/4 cup watercress.

Phoebe Wu, Cooking Light

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