Washing and Drying: Limp lettuce is about as appetizing as grass clippings, so be gentle. Because the leaves bruise easily, they require tender, loving care. Blot washed greens with a paper towel or use a salad spinner. If you eat a lot of salad, a spinner is worth the price, about $30. There are several varieties to choose from, but Cook’s Illustrated has consistently given OXO its highest recommendation for ease of use, sturdiness, and cleanup. Using dry lettuce is important, because wet leaves will thin out creamy salad dressings and repel oil-based vinaigrettes.
Storage: Wrap washed lettuce in a cloth or paper towels and place in Saran or large plastic bag. I prefer leaving the bag unsealed for circulation, though some swear by an airtight seal. Don’t store with fruits as it can reduce the storage time for lettuce. If properly wrapped, refrigerated lettuce will stay crisp for 5-6 days. Can’t say that for the sealed, pre-washed lettuce from the supermarket.
Or you can line your storage container with a damp dish towel and then add your lettuce. Cover the lettuce with the dish towel, then snap on your lid. Your lettuce should stay fresh for a week. The covered basket of your spinner also works for storage though it takes up a lot of space in the frig.
Dressing: Salads yearn to be properly dressed, but only before serving. The dressing should not be poured directly on the leaves, but down the side of the bowl and then gently tossed with a couple of spoons or clean hands. If you overdress, just take your leaves for another whirl in the spinner and it will shake the excess free. Some say tear the greens into your salad bowl, rather than cut with a knife. But I’ve come to prefer the chopped look rather than the large chunks of torn greens you see on salad bars. It’s a matter of personal preference, though, if using a knife, it’s best to use a plastic one to lessen bruising of the leaves.
Iceberg Lettuce vs. Romaine: When I was growing up, the salad lettuce of choice was Iceberg. But today this mild, crispy green gets a bad rap for being less nutritious than the darker greens. That’s true, but it does have dietary fiber as well as vitamins A and K, both of which are good for bone health. Like romaine, Iceberg has a mere 8 calories per cup. If you want to keep the extra crunch in your salads that comes with iceberg, mix it with darker greens–romaine, spinach, kale–for a boost in nutrients.
Interesting Tidbit: Iceberg was given its name years ago, because the heads were packed in ice before shipping.