Sunday, April 18, 2004

Proper washing, storing keeps leaves crisp



Wraps require crisp, firm lettuce, which is the result of proper cleaning and storing. Iceberg, or head lettuce, works best, but for different tastes and textures, try leafy varieties such as romaine, red leaf or escarole.

• Iceberg is more porous than any other type of lettuce. To keep it crisp, rap the core on the counter and twist it out. Turn the head upside down and let cold tap water fill the cavity.

When the cavity is full, turn the head over and let drain for 15 minutes. Put the lettuce in the refrigerator's crisper, where it should last for two weeks with little or no decay.

• Leafy lettuces, such as romaine, red leaf and escarole, expire quickly because they are 85 to 90 percent water, much of which they lose in transit.

To preserve, cut off about 1/8-inch from the stem end. The leaves should still be attached. Plunge into 95 to 100-degree water for three to five minutes. Drain with the stems up for 10 minutes, then put the lettuce into a vegetable crisper. Don't dry the leaves.

In about an hour, the lettuce will go into shock and will stay crisp for nine to 14 days.




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