Lettuce – pumpkinseed pesto AND lettuce, hazelnut & white bean bisque

Or, two ways to prepare lettuce that don’t involve the word “salad.”

Lettuce, white bean, hazelnut soup

We’re watching Blues Brothers with the boys. It’s rated R, but we can’t remember why, so we’re watching it cautiously, with the remote nearby. Is it the non-stop swearing and the incredibly destructive car chases? Pshaw, my boys are used to that! We drive recklessly through a couple of malls a day around here. Actually, it might be a little rough for them, but I think they’re well aware that they can’t say all of the words that they’re hearing and that they can’t drive cars through store windows. What a pleasure to watch them watch the dancing and the singing, and all of the wonderful, contagiously happy music. It’s such a joyful movie! And I’d forgotten how sweet it is, in parts, and how good it looks. There are a few moments that have such a lovely, quiet grace about them, in the midst of all the raucousness. And, oddly, these moments seem to involve toast. In one scene, Elwood has just toasted a piece of bread in his small room in the home for itinerant men. His brother fell asleep, and he covered him with a blanket, and then sat in the window and looked out at the trains rumbling by in a watery blue light. Beautiful! Now, I love toast. I think it’s such a comforting, restorative food. The very smell of bread toasting can make you feel better. And I happen to have made a meal last night that revolved around toast! And lettuces, lots and lots of lettuces. We got about 7 heads of red leaf lettuce from the CSA, and I’m actually very excited about it. I love salad, as I’ve said many a time, but I also like the challenge of turning lettuce into a non-salad meal. We happened to eat two in the same meal last night, but they were both very tasty, so nobody seemed to mind.

Lettuce pesto

I made a soup with lettuce, hazelnuts and white beans. I seasoned it with tarragon, chervil, and lovage, and it was very flavorful. It was smooth, but not velvety, although you could certainly make it that way if you liked. I floated a small, plain toast in it, and it was delicious. The other non-salad lettuce item on the agenda was a lettuce, pumpkinseed, goatcheese pesto. It turned out very nice! Much milder in flavor than a traditional basil pesto, but it has the lovely, indefinable flavor of toasted pumpkinseeds, and a bit of creamy tang provided by goat cheese. We ate it with toast (again!) and a little bruschetta topping made from tomatoes, basil, french feta, and capers.

Here’s Shake A Tail Feather, with the Blues Brothers and Ray Charles. Doesn’t it make you happy?

2 cups packed lettuce – chopped
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 t balsamic or white wine vinegar
1 garlic scape (or one clove garlic) roasted
small handful of fresh basil

Puree the garlic scapes (or garlic) and pumpkinseeds. Add the lettuce and crumble in the goat cheese. Add the olive oil, vinegar, basil, and enough water to make everything as smooth as you like it. (a few tablespoons should do it) Season with salt and pepper.

Broth made by warming olive oil, adding 1 shallot roughly chopped, 1 garlic scape, roughly chopped, 2 mushrooms, 1 t dried porcini, 2 T french lentils, 1/2 t marmite, 1 t tomato paste, 1 t dried sage, 1 t dried rosemary, 2 lettuce leaves, 1 carrot, roughly chopped. 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t tamari…and anything else you want to add! When it’s all sizzling, add about 6 cups water. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for half an hour or more.

2 T olive oil
2 garlic scapes, chopped (or two cloves garlic)
1 shallot, chopped
1 t fennel seeds, crushed
1 t thyme
1 t mustard seeds
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins rubbed off
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
splash white wine
2 – 3 cups lettuce, chopped
1 t tarragon
1 t chervil
1 t lovage
1 t lemon juice
2 t honey
1 T butter (unless you’re vegan)

Warm the olive oil in a big soup pan. Add the scapes, hazelnuts, shallots, mustard, thyme, and fennel seeds. Cook till things start to turn brown. Add the white beans and a splash of white wine. Cook till everything’s a bit thick and syrupy. Add the lettuce, and stir and cook till everything is wilted, and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan – then add about 3 or 4 cups of broth. You want to cover everything by about 1/2 inch. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to include all the flavorful stuff.

Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer till the lettuce is very soft – 15 – 20 minutes.

Add the lemon, honey, butter, salt, pepper and herbs, and puree a little at a time in a blender. (Careful, it’s hot!)

Return to the pot to heat through. Serve with toasts or croutons.


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