Butterhead lettuce deserves the name.
It has small, loosely shaped heads of furled, soft, delicate, buttery leaves that, for purists, need no dressing and can be eaten as fast as they’re pulled from the water that rinses them.
Butterhead lettuce is available year-round at produce departments. One head - not quite half a pound - contains only 21 calories, a respectable amount of vitamin A and iron and is a fair provider of calcium and potassium. It’s lower in vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium than its relatives romaine and looseleaf.
With butterhead and any other lettuces, the general rule is the darker the leaf, the more nutritious. At the market, choose butterheads with crisp, whitish bases and no wilting or yellow leaves.
To clean, remove the core and separate the leaves. Fill the sink with cold water and gently wash each leaf, agitating the water slightly. Dry in a salad spinner or by wrapping them in clean kitchen towels, Kraus says. Blot any remaining moisture; dressing won’t adhere to wet lettuce.
Butter Lettuce With Mango and Avocado
From “Greens: A Country Garden Cookbook,” by Sibella Kraus (Harper Collins).
1 large head butter lettuce
1 large ripe mango or 2 small ones
1 large ripe avocado or 2 small ones
2-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 jalapeno chiles (1 red and 1 green, if possible), seeded and finely chopped
6 tablespoons light olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Wash and dry butter lettuce leaves. Peel mango, cut off the fat cheeks and slice them. Trim the rest of the flesh off the mango pit, chop finely (there will be lots of juice) and mix into the dressing.
Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the flesh from the skin in one piece with a large spoon. Cut avocado into fans.
Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing in a medium bowl.
Toss lettuce leaves with half the dressing and place them on a salad platter. Arrange mango slices and fanned avocado slices on top of the lettuce and evenly distribute the remaining dressing on top.
Garnish with a few cilantro leaves, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 341 calories, 3 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrate, 28 grams fat (74 percent fat calories), no cholesterol, 4 grams dietary fiber, 402 milligrams sodium.
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