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Lettuce Hearts: A Versatile and Healthy Delight

Lettuce hearts are small romaine lettuces with thick, tender, and crunchy leaves, mainly cultivated in the Tudela area. They are a very versatile ingredient that can be consumed raw or cooked, and they lend themselves to multiple combinations and dressings. Their flavor is mild and refreshing, and they provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They are ideal for preparing salads, skewers, fillings, or grilled dishes.

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Lettuce Hearts: A Healthy and Versatile Delight

Lettuce hearts are dwarf romaine lettuces about 10 cm tall, resembling cabbage in appearance. They are cultivated in the Navarrese municipality of Tudela and the surroundings of the Ebro River throughout the year, both outdoors and in greenhouses. They are characterized by being tight, tender, and having thick, strong, and very rough leaves, with a developed central vein. The color varies from the yellow of their interior to the light green of the outer leaves. Lettuce hearts are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, iron, and potassium. They also contain fiber and antioxidants that can help prevent cellular aging and some diseases. Additionally, they are low in calories and have a high water content, making them ideal for weight loss diets and for hydration. Lettuce hearts can be consumed raw or cooked. Raw, they are usually cut in half or quarters and seasoned with oil, vinegar, and salt, or with more elaborate vinaigrettes that can include capers, anchovies, nuts, mustard, honey, raspberries, etc. They can also be filled with cheese, smoked salmon, ham, beets, or whatever you prefer. Cooked, they can be briefly grilled to brown the outside but maintain their texture inside. They can be accompanied by salmon, peppers, tomatoes, or hot vinaigrettes. Another way to eat them is to use the leaves as tacos or boats to fill them with rice, smoked tofu, avocado, or whatever you desire.

Lettuce Hearts with Anchovies, Garlic, and Pickled Vinaigrette

It is an easy, quick, and healthy recipe that you can prepare on any occasion. Here are the ingredients you need:

  • 4 lettuce hearts
  • 8 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of Sherry vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped parsley

For the pickled vinaigrette:

  • 4 tablespoons of unsweetened natural yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped pickles in vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped capers
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped pitted green olives
  • Salt and pepper

Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Wash the lettuce hearts well, drain them, and cut them in half or quarters, according to your preference. Place them in a large dish or plate.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and slice them thinly. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic over medium heat until golden brown. Remove from heat and add the Sherry vinegar carefully, as it splashes a lot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
  3. Arrange the anchovy fillets on the lettuce hearts and drizzle with the mixture of oil, garlic, and vinegar. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to taste.
  4. To make the pickled vinaigrette, mix the yogurt with the pickles, capers, and chopped olives. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
  5. Serve the lettuce hearts with anchovies accompanied by the pickled vinaigrette in a separate bowl or pour it on top if you prefer.

Lettuce hearts have a long history dating back to ancient Rome, where they were considered a symbol of fertility and were used to make salads and soups. The Romans also brought them to other regions of the empire like Hispania, where they adapted to the climate and soil. In the 16th century, they were introduced to France and later to England. In the 19th century, they began to be cultivated in Tudela and since then they have gained fame and prestige for their quality and flavor. Lettuce hearts are a very versatile ingredient that can be combined with many other foods and flavors. You can prepare simple and quick recipes for everyday meals or more sophisticated and festive dishes.


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