What to CookLeafy Green

A Springy, Multi-Purpose Spread with an Earth-Saving Secret

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From this day forward, you will no longer be bummed out by wilty, bruised lettuce leaves.

(A bold—but true—claim.)

Photo by Mark Weinberg

In fact, you might even begin to feel a bit giddy if your greens are a little battered because it means a batch of lettuce jam is in your future.

I know. Lettuce jam sounds… strange at best, but stay with me, because to try it is to love it.

This condiment was new to me, but transforming lingering greens into a savory spread isn't a new idea—Paula Wolfert makes an herb-laden version and Merrill fell for one served with bread at Locanda Vini e Olii in Brooklyn. (If you want to try and recreate that one, she suspects it's just romaine that they put in a food processor with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil.)

Today's version comes from Jenn Louis’ new cookbook, The Book of Greens, which we already know is packed full of intriguing recipes for a wide range of greens.

Photo by Julia Gartland

Louis first had lettuce jam at Press restaurant in Napa Valley, California, made by chef Trevor Kunk:

It is like a salsa verde, but served like a dip. I find it magical and simple at the same time, not to mention a great use of the outside, imperfect leaves of frisée, romaine, Little Gem lettuce, or even a mix of them all.

Louis cooks the lettuce leaves and some shallots and then blends them along with capers, cornichons, Dijon mustard, and a little salt in a food processor until a creamy paste forms. The resulting spread is tangy and addictive—you'll find a variety of uses for it: as a dip for vegetables, a spread for tartines and sandwiches, or a sauce for the protein of your choice. I chose to hoard my jar in the back of the fridge and eat it with a spoon.

Putting less-than-perfect lettuce to good use is a smart move, but please use common sense when assessing which wilty greens are okay to eat. Limp leaves are fine, as are lightly bruised or battered ones. Leaves that are melting into a pile of their own slime belong in the compost bin.

Lettuce Jam

Lettuce Jam

Jenn Louis Jenn Louis
Makes 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) neutral vegetable oil
  • 10 1/2 ounces (300 g) assorted lettuces (about 1 packed heaping quart), including outer leaves and damaged leaves
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into 3/4-inch (6-mm) pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers
  • 8 cornichons
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Fine sea salt
Go to Recipe

Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap? Tell me about it! Send me an email ([email protected]) or tell all in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure! Thanks to Ali for spotting this little gem.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Lettuce, Cooking with Scraps