Well, the nice thing about this endless Seattle gloom is that the lettuce isn’t bolting.
When I first moved to Seattle, J and I lived in a tiny house, and one of the first things we did was put in a tiny garden. We built four raised beds in the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street. Everyone does that now, I know, but this was more than a decade ago and I liked to think of us as pioneering urban farmers back then. (We got chickens too, of course.)
There was just one problem. I’m from California. And when I moved to Seattle, I was cold. I consulted with my local garden store about what kind of vegetables I could grow in this inhospitable climate and planted things like lettuce, arugula, and broccoli. And then I bundled them up as warm as I could. I put hoops over the beds and sheathed them in clear plastic, trapping the heat to create toasty little greenhouses for my tender plants. They thought it was high summer and went happily straight to seed, of course. Learning that some plants prefer cooler temperatures was the beginning of my education about the benefits that a cool climate has to offer. (Others include not needing much of a summer wardrobe, only needing an air conditioner a few days each year, and the blueberries. Oh, the blueberries!)
In any case, delightful lettuces grow in this part of the world nearly year-round. They are floppy or pert, frilly or reserved, pastel green, deep maroon, or freckled. They are the stars of the show at springtime farmers markets, and I find them irresistible. Here’s a nice thing to do with any sturdy, crunchy lettuce. (Romaine is the classic, of course, as we’re riffing on the Caesar salad here, but it gets much more exciting than that.)Sorta-Ceasar Salad: Mince two cloves of garlic and mix with about 1/4 c. olive oil in a salad bowl. Set aside to infuse while you wash your lettuce and cut bread for croutons. Toss 3/4″ bread cubes with 1 Tb. of the garlic oil and a sprinkle of salt and bake at 350 until toasted, stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes). Mash a few anchovies into the garlic oil in your bowl if you like, along with few good dashes of Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 tsp. dry mustard. Add lettuce, grated Parmesan cheese, and the juice of half a lemon and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice or olive oil as needed. Add croutons and toss again.