Produce of the Week - Grenobloise Lettuce
sponsored by Coleman Farms
Grenobloise lettuce, also known as Rouge de Grenoble, seems hard to find:
a brief mention in an earlier column comes in
the first page of Web search results, while a reference to our sponsor's Salads page
comes in the second. The first entry returned is a botanical description.
Judged on its own merits, Grenobloise deserves much better than this.
On the stand, Grenobloise is often mistaken for Vulcan (a.k.a. "Red Leaf").
The mistake is understandable. Grenobloise is a heading lettuce, but the
heads are quite loose and, together with the dark purple-red leaf margins,
do suggest Vulcan to the casual observer. However, the texture and build
of the two leaves is quite different. Vulcan has a minimal central stalk
or vein, and a very soft leaf which is somewhat pleated. The Grenobloise
leaf surface is very uneven, almost bubbly along the margins, with
somewhat more prominent branching veins and a crisp texture. In
appearance, Grenobloise is fairly close to Vulcan; in texture it is closer
to Sierra, distinctly crisp but with a thin leaf that is tenderer than
Vulcan is one of the mildest of lettuces, with a light palate cleansing
'lettuce flavor' and little else. Grenobloise is much fuller flavored,
with a hint of nuttiness and suggestions of fruit such as cherry. There is
none of the bitterness often found in Romaine.
The flavor and color of Grenobloise suit it well to mixed salads, where
its reserved but developed flavor can serve as a background for tangier
elements such as escarole or arugula, or complement the mineral flavor of
Perilla or the sweet/tart crispness of a lettuce like Little Gem or
Romaine. The large highly textured leaf holds dressings well, which is
another reason to mix it with the smoother-leaved lettuces. And, being
crisp but not hard, flavorful but not tart, Grenobloise makes a fine salad
all on its own. It's also good as a platter liner, where the purple-red
margins and dark green shading to white of the inner leaf will set off a
wide variety of foods. The large crisp leaves are also suitable for
'stuffing', if you feel like it. Grenobloise is a fairly durable lettuce
which is good in sandwiches, though it's unlikely to hold up in a bag lunch
quite as well as Sierra or Romaine.