Featured Food: Miner’s Lettuce

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Miner’s Lettuce Spring Salad

This simple recipe is inspired by childhood memories of playing with friends in the orchards and meadows in the spring sunlight stopping only to dine on the dainty, crunchy, celery-like stalks and round lettuce-like leaves of miner’s lettuce.  Here is the more grown-up—yet still very improvisational—salad inspired by the subtle (almost nutty sweet) flavor and delightfully fresh textures of this native plant which grows in Northern California.

Ingredients

  • Miner’s Lettuce – Several bunches
  • Fuji Apple – 1 (more if you are feeding more than 8 people)
  • Pine Nuts – 1 to 2 handfuls
  • Feta Cheese – 1/3-1/2 of a 4oz container

Method

Miner’s lettuce grows in sun or partial sun and can be identified by its round leaves which form a fluted bowl out of which a simple white flower rises (like a dancer in an inverted green skirt).  Some stems may have a spade-like shape, and these are also edible.  The grass green color blends in with other foliage, so be wary of patches which might be close to poison oak, areas of heavy animal traffic, or excessive road dust, etc.  All parts above ground are edible, but the stems have the most moisture, and are tasty and crunchy like bean sprouts.  When harvesting, do not pull the whole plant.  Leave the roots and enough leaves to sustain the plant for another year.  Avoid picking grass; take the time to enjoy picking the biggest, healthiest stalks as they sway and bob in the breeze.

When you get several bunches home, wash each stem thoroughly in cold water one at a time and leave them to dry on a paper towel.  Then remove the flowers, leaving only the best looking circles and the unbroken portions of the stems.  Place them in a medium-to-large salad bowl, depending on the size of your harvest.

Peel and finely slice pieces of Fuji apples, a handful of pine nuts, and the feta cheese. You may serve immediately or cover with plastic rap and chill before serving depending on your needs.  Before serving, drizzle with a citrus vinaigrette dressing or allow guests to apply their own.  This salad is so light and full of the goodness of spring, that you may want to try it plain first. 

The Serving Size is variable depending on the amount of Miner’s Lettus (the major ingredient) you are able to harvest.

Light Citrus Vinaigrette Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 oranges (depending on size) (1/8 cup juice)
  • ½ Meyer lemon
  • ½ Lime
  • Shallot vinegar (may substitute champagne or other light vinegar) (1/8 cup) 
  • Walnut oil (1/8 cup)
  • Agave or other sweetener
  • Fresh ground pepper

Method

Unless you are making a very large salad, you may only need to make ½ cup (or less) of dressing.  To make this dressing, take equal parts walnut oil, vinegar, and freshly squeezed orange juice.  Then squeeze in the juice of half a small Meyer lemon and half a lime.  Add a dash of Agave or other sweetener (if desired), then grind in fresh black pepper (a few grinds).  Whisk with a fork until mixed.  Enjoy.  (Best served with a meal of free-range chicken and couscous or similar.)

Recipes by Nadja Masura

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