Produce of the Week - Lollo Rosso
sponsored by Coleman Farms
You need to be a bit flexible when looking for Lollo Rosso lettuce: it's also known, with increasing degrees of gender confusion, as Lolla Rossa and Lollo Rossa and even, in the English version of a Korean seed catalogue, as Red Rollo. But, according to a good source, Lollo Rosso is the right name.
As the name suggests, it's another 'red leaf', but a very distinctive one. It looks like a smallish head of Vulcan - open head, ruffly leaves with green bases and purple-red tops. But, as so often, looks don't tell the whole story. Vulcan is probably the softest - that is, least crunchy - of lettuces, with a very thin flexible leaf. Lollo Rosso has thicker leaves with noticeable crunchiness and structure. Vulcan is one of the mildest-flavored lettuces, giving a fair amount of the 'green leafy' flavor which distinguishes the lettuces from other greens, but not going much beyond that. Lollo Rosso, on the other hand, has very strong elements of nuttiness about it. 'Nutty' is a fairly loosely used flavor descriptor; here we can be fairly specific and mention 'hazlenut' and 'walnut'.
The distinctive flavor and texture make it specially suited to a couple of uses. Whereas Vulcan is a good base for a salad, being mild and taking dressings well, Lollo Rosso can provide highlights of both flavor and texture in a salad mix. It's texture makes it good for sandwiches, since it contrasts with bread and many fillings in a way a soft lettuce won't. Moreover, Lollo Rosso will retain crispness for some time, which is useful if sandwiches have to wait between preparation and consumption. Finally, appearance, flavor and texture all suit it for use as a presentation medium, either edging a platter of whatever, mostly (I guess) for decoration, or set out ready to be used for dipping or 'stuffing', with anything from egg salad to guacamole.
A lot of this will be familiar to ed's readers. What's different are the specifics of the flavor and texture of the Lollo Rosso. You'll know this when you try it.
While we're here, let's not forget the tunes.