Nothing beats a salad that’s waiting for you ten feet outside of your door! Freshly snipped lettuce won’t have time to wilt before it hits your plate, plus lettuce is even easier to grow than herbs are. The only trick is planting the seeds in a pot that’s high up off the ground — otherwise, you’ll be feeding the bunnies instead of yourself. But a waist-level-or-higher pot should do the trick. And if you haven’t planted any lettuce seeds yet, not to worry — they grow rapidly throughout the summer, especially if you make sure they aren’t in full sun. Lettuce likes sunlight, sure, but it can also dry out easily, and even well-watered lettuce will taste more bitter if it soaks in enormous amounts of sunlight. I like to position my anti-bunny lettuce pots in spots that are only in full sun for half the day.
Once your lettuce has leaves that are finger-length, you can start judiciously clipping them. Use sharp kitchen shears to neatly shear off each leaf at its base, being careful to take a little bit from each plant so that each plant still has enough leaves to keep growing. Lettuce will last all summer and will keep giving you fresh salads if you don’t gouge out big hunks of lettuce from one spot. (The same is true of herbs, although with herbs, make sure you deflower them so that you keep getting the leafy herbal bits rather than winding up with mostly flowers and a few bitter-tasting leafy bits.) Toss your fresh leaves with a drizzle of unrefined oil, a tomato or two, and perhaps an ultra-savory cheese, and you’ve got an easy summer treat!
Straight-from-the-Garden Salad with Spanish Valdeón Blue Cheese
Freshly snipped lettuce leaves (or as close to that as you can get)
Minced fresh herbs (optional, but nice; any herbs will do)
Savory cheese of your choice (I opted for an intensely flavorful Spanish blue cheese, but sharp-tasting Feta or a rich aged cheese like Parmesan would be nice, too)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Rinse lettuce well under cold water and pat dry. (Fresh-from-the-garden lettuce sometimes comes with fresh-from-the-garden bugs!) Toss all ingredients together gently in a pretty serving bowl, using a small splash of oil to start and adding more if the salad seems too dry. Taste and see if you’d like to add sea salt and freshly cracked pepper — most flavorful cheeses are salty enough to season a salad, but it’s up to you. The Valdeón blue cheese is not only pleasingly salty, it’s also peppery by nature, so I didn’t need to add any salt or pepper, not even with the sweetness of fresh tomatoes thrown into the mix.
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