Braised Lettuce Hearts

Before explaining how to save a lettuce heart, let me first explain to you why I had so many lettuce hearts just chilling – literally, (unintentionally epic pun) – in my fridge.

In order to be as waste-free and efficient as possible for the recent nibs etc. catering gig, I’d settled on the ingenious - if I do say so myself - yet simple solution of serving a cauli-rice salad in lettuce cups (note-to-self for future canapés).  Long story short, I bought 6 heads, before finding what I’d actually been searching for, about three hours later. 

Rather than watching the wilt and brown rather unappetisingly in the back of the fridge, and live with the guilt for the following month, I decided to give cooking the hearts a try. 

So while you may not have 6 lettuce heads casually stored away at home, I am certain you’ve all found yourselves with aging lettuce hearts tucked away, near-forgotten, in your vegetable drawer after having used a few plush leaves for last week’s salads.  Which is why this solution is one you absolutely have to try. 

It’s beautifully simple, can be flavoured with any leftover fridge condiments and pantry staples, and can quite easily be applied to any wilting fridge finds. 

Try it.  Love it.  Repeat it. 
Save the hearts!

Braised Lettuce Hearts
nibs etc. original recipe. Serves 5-7 (or 1 hungry bestover fiend).

6 Lettuce Hearts
2 tbsp Salted butter
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp Hazelnuts
2 tsp Za’atar
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan

Preheat your oven to 200*C Fan /420*F.  Place your hazelnuts onto a baking sheet, and toast for 10 minutes.
When ready, remove and place into a small hand blender with the za’atar, and pulse until all hazelnuts have been chipped and chopped in some way, no matter how big or small.  Set aside.
Slice your lettuce hearts in half, chopping 2mm off the root end – making sure not to cut too that the heart falls apart - ain't got time for no heartbreak (yes I went there).  Rinse, and place cut side up on your baking sheet.
Pour enough water onto the sheet so as to just cover the base – about ½ cm.  Dot the hearts with the salted butter, adding 2 thumb-nail sized dollops to the water base as well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in the oven and braise for 15-20 minutes until softened and just starting to brown all over.
Remove from the oven, switch on the broiler, top your lettuce hearts with hazelnut and za’atar mix, then grated cheese.  Pop back under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until the edges are just starting to char and the parmesan has melted.
Serve right away as an appetizer, side, or main.

As a side to any meat or fish dish.
Atop a barley or quinoa salad.
Served on walnut toast, thickened yoghurt, with a dollop of harissa or pesto.
On the light side with a fried egg, harissa and crumbled feta.
As a main with cauliflower + parmesan rind purée, cauliflower ‘rice’ and leaves + cumin roasted carrots, and my new favourite condiment, harissa, as pictured here.