Is it just me or do your salad greens wilt instantly upon exiting the grocery store? It seems that no matter how fresh and crisp they look in the produce aisle, they never look the same when you get home. (Could this be the same phenomenon as with clothing store fitting room mirrors?? I’ve never looked as good as I do in the Banana Republic dressing room!)
I was reading an interesting article in a recent article of Fine Cooking magazine (which of course I can no longer locate) about the molecular makeup of leafy greens. The wonderful news is that most greens – including herbs – that haven’t yet reached the slimy stage can be revived with a quick soak in cold water. The leaves absorb the water and really do bounce back. My salad spinner is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, and it makes this added step even easier. Just let the greens soak a bit longer when you’re rinsing them off, then drain and spin. And when cutting up your salad greens, remember that they will resist bruising and browning for a little bit longer if you tear the leaves instead of cutting them.
Another way to salvage greens (again, pre-slime stage) is to roast them. Toss them in with some other veggies, a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees. They get crisp on the edges and really add a nice flavor to ordinary roast vegetables. I tried it the other night with some mixed greens and diced butternut squash. Delicious!
As for prolonging life for as long as possible, I’ve found that wrapping greens loosely in a damp paper towel in a sealed container works best. Since cutting the leaves damages the cell structure, the less you cut, the better. So when using a head of lettuce, I peel off enough leaves for what I need, then wrap the remainder and store whole. For bunches of fresh herbs, trim the ends and place them in a mug as you would a bouquet of flowers. Then, tent the leafy tops with a plastic bag and tie around the base of the mug.
And now that I’ve given you some great kitchen tips, you have to listen to me rant for just a minute. When it comes to packaged food, if it’s wrapped in plastic, it typically tastes like plastic. Even though the bags of salad greens are terribly convenient, they really just don’t taste all that great. A head of red leaf lettuce will cost less, yield more, and will definitely taste more lettuce-y than the pre-washed, chopped, bagged version. So bag the bags kids!