I never thought I’d have a lettuce crop in September. I had planted several varieties in the spring, and I had an abundance of fresh lettuce through mid-July. Then I went away on vacation for a week, and to my disappointment, I came back to three-foot-high lettuce plants. Once lettuce gets that tall and begins to flower, it’s pretty much useless unless you toss it into the compost pile. The lettuce becomes tough and bitter, and basically inedible. So I pulled out the plants and went on to harvesting tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, figuring my lettuce crop was officially over for the season.
Towards the end of August I made a trip to Fort Hill Nursery in Huntington in search of new decorative flag for the outside of my house. To my utter amazement, I saw an entire display of every kind of lettuce imaginable, delivered just that day. I asked if I could actually plant lettuce again that late in the season, and I was told that I most definitely could. I picked up some four packs of romaine, arugula, red bib lettuce and a mesclun mix. I replanted, watered and waited. Now I have a wonderful crop of lettuce again, which is thriving in this cool weather.
Do you have a lettuce crop and an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes? Here’s a quick and easy weeknight meal from my cookbook, Delectable Italian Dishes for Family and Friends, which I co-authored with Sal Baldanza of Mr. Sausage in Huntington. Enjoy!
Chicken Paillard with Arugula, Red Grape Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
4 breaded and fried thin chicken cutlets
Balsamic-based vinaigrette dressing
3 bunches arugula
1 small fresh mozzarella, cubed into bite-sized pieces (or use halved mozzarella bocconcini)
1 ½ cups red grape tomatoes, cut in half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat breaded and fried chicken cutlets on a cookie sheet until heated through. Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and dry arugula and remove course stems. Roughly chop. Combine tomatoes, arugula and cubed mozzarella with a tablespoon or two of the balsamic vinaigrette. Gently toss.
When cutlets are heated through, put on individual plates and top them with a generous amount of the arugula salad. Serve immediately. Serves 4.