While lettuce tastes great raw in salads and sandwiches, it's most more versatile than many people think. Lettuce isn't often cooked with in the United States, but cooked lettuce dishes are fairly popular in countries such as China and France. You can cook it in much the same way as you would any other leafy greens.
Types of Lettuce
A wide range of lettuce varieties exist, but some are better to cook with than others. Popular types include romaine, iceberg, butterhead, frisee and oakleaf. More robust kinds of lettuce -- such as iceberg and romaine -- are best for cooking, as they won't wilt away to nothing. Delicate oakleaf or frisee lettuces are likely to turn to mush if you don't treat them gently. While uncommon in the United States, Chinese lettuce is often cooked with in Asia. However, don't be put off from cooking whatever kind of lettuce you have to hand.
Stir-frying is an ideal way to cook lettuce. Since vegetables don't stay in the pan long when you're stir-frying them, your lettuce won't cook down too much. Stir-fried iceberg lettuce is a popular Chinese new year dish. Both the stems and the leaves of Chinese lettuce are often cooked in this way in East Asian cuisine. Any lettuce can be stir-fried, as long as you don't cook delicate varieties for too long.
Lettuce soup can be eaten hot or served cold, as a dainty summer starter. You can make a simple soup by sauteing some onions or leeks, then simmering them with potatoes, stock, lettuce and seasonings, before pureeing the whole lot. Shredded lettuce can also be added to a soup of mixed spring or summer vegetables. Make soup to use up lettuce that's not quite fresh enough to be eaten raw.
With its smoky flavor, grilled lettuce makes an unusual side dish at a cook out. Halve a head of crisp lettuce -- such as romaine or iceberg -- and brush each side with a marinade of your choice. Cook the lettuce straight on the barbecue for a few minutes on each side. If you don't have an outdoor barbecue, you could always cook your lettuce this way indoors, using a grill pan or your oven's broiler.
- Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images