When many people think of lettuce dishes, the image that comes to mind is that of a cold tossed salad. To some, wilted lettuce is just greens that have been left in the refrigerator too long. Wilted lettuce, however, is actually a hot dressing poured over lettuce pieces. Precise recipes vary, but the basic ingredients include bacon, vinegar and green onions. Some cooks purchase a fresh head of lettuce to prepare the dish, but others choose to prepare it to use up lettuce that has lost some of its crispness but has not yet reached the stage where it is necessary to throw it out.
To make wilted lettuce, fry four or five strips of bacon in a large skillet; remove the bacon when done, crumble and set aside. Add two tablespoons of vinegar and salt and pepper as desired to the bacon drippings; some cooks add a spoon or two of brown or granulated sugar as well. Allow the mixture to continue to cook, stirring frequently, while preparing lettuce.
Tear or chop the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place in a serving bowl. Slice three to six green onions, including their tops, very thin, add crumbled bacon and toss with the lettuce. Pour the dressing over the greens and toss. Serve the wilted lettuce dish while warm.
A spicier, lower fat alternative recipe for wilted lettuce eliminates the bacon. To prepare this lettuce dish, saute three or four finely minced garlic cloves in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a deep skillet. Add the chopped lettuce and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Continue to saute the mixture until the lettuce is properly wilted, then remove from the skillet, drain and serve warm. This recipe is particularly suitable for lettuce that has lost its crispness but has not yet began to mold or form a slimy coating.
Some cooks like to top wilted lettuce with sliced hard-boiled eggs or cherry tomatoes. Sliced olives or mushrooms are also possible additions, either as toppings or mixed into the greens. The dish is occasionally sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.
Precut salad mixes may be used in place of lettuce if so desired. Typically, these mixes contain other vegetables, such as carrots or radishes, in addition to iceberg or romaine lettuce. Because precut lettuce loses its body faster than an intact head, some cooks salvage leftover mixes by making wilted lettuce. The additional vegetables, however, may not make this a desirable substitute for all.