Heads up! It's lettuce season.

And it doesn't take the advertising folks at J. Walter Thompson to announce that green products are flooding the marketplace. A proliferation of environmentally friendly items stock grocery shelves, but an abundance of leafy greens cover produce counters.Time was when lettuce meant iceberg, and only that variety graced the grocery.

Though dependably present in the produce section, iceberg lettuce varies widely in color, crispness and flavor. Overall, the familiar head has less flavor and fewer vitamins than its bolder neighbors, but stays crisp longer.

Settling for iceberg alone is like admitting that plain, no-sauce pasta claims a spot on your favorite-foods list.

But iceberg, blessed with the company of a selection of other greens, compares with Pasta Ai Quattro Formaggi - an elegant blend of complementary ingredients.

Romaine, red- and green-leaf, and butter lettuce join iceberg as dependable entries on the produce shelf and account for ninety percent of the year-round salad supply, according to Clark Wood, produce manager for Associated Foods.

"Predictable pricing is available on these greens all year," Wood said, "unless there are fluctuations due to weather conditions, but specialty greens like the chicories, dandelions or beet greens are available seasonally and at a higher price. Specialty produce houses like Frieda's have popularized more exotic items, but they come with a higher cost."

Higher cost may prohibit frequent use of unusual greens, but an occasional indulgence gives an ordinary salad bowl a pinch of panache.

Salad construction doesn't come with a blueprint list of guidelines, but requires an experimental strategy and an adventurous attitude.

The choice becomes clear.

It's either cling to the customary or go for the gusto of variety greens.

In putting together a salad from the myriad of combinations of foods and seasonings at hand, try to balance the textures, colors and flavors.

A mild base of romaine lettuce accepts assertive complements such as cucumbers, onions, pineapple or a nippy Roquefort dressing.

The nutty, delicate flavor of butter lettuce responds to a light coating of a neutral-flavored vinaigrette.

Potent-flavored greens in the chicory family should be used sparingly but add a zing to an otherwise innocuous collection of lettuces.

Once the group of greens is gathered, a complementary dressing completes the collection. The choice of vinegars and oils can change the character of a salad. Some vinegars are strong, some are especially flavorful, others are mellow and smooth.

Apple-cider vinegar has a mild flavor and smells faintly like fruit, while balsamic vinegar has a sweet-sour flavor that is potent. A little balsamic goes a long way. Fruit-based vinegars blend with fruit and poultry salads; herb vinegars complement greens. Oriental, vegetable or seafood salads shine with an addition of rice vinegar. Red and white wine vinegars are the most popular types for vinaigrette dressings.

Extra-virgin olive oil is derived from the first pressing of choice olives and possesses little sediment and low acidity. Heat is applied to the second pressing, called virgin olive oil, and results in a higher sediment and acid content.

The best way to choose an olive oil for a salad is to buy it in small quantities and try it. Many people find that an assertive oil masks the flavor of the other salad ingredients, especially delicate greens. Others like the way it tones down vinegar. The choice becomes a matter of personal taste and the pocketbook.

Other choices include almond oil with a delicate almond flavor; hazelnut oil, which imparts a nutty flavor to greens but is expensive and difficult to find; peanut oil, which has a bland taste and is used to maintain the flavor of greens, or walnut oil, which complements spinach salads.

Variety greens combined with a blend of vinegar and oil creates a collage of colors and tastes.

What better way to embark on the summer salad season?

Here, from the New York Times, are some tips for buying, storing and using greens:

- For best nutritional value, choose greens with leaves that are firm and green. Yellowing, soggy leaves indicate that they are old or have been exposed to heat.

- Before refrigerating greens that have been hosed down in a supermarket (high humidity is essential to prevent wilting), wrap in a paper towel to blot and seal in an airtight bag.

- Store in the vegetable drawer where the humidity is highest. (Keep away from apples, plums or nectarines, which emit ethylene gas, which turns lettuce brown.)

- Keep greens moist and cold but not saturated. Excess water leaches out nutrients and causes decay. For this reason, don't wash greens until you plan to eat them, and then use only as much water as it takes to remove grit.

- Most greens will stay fresh for a week in a refrigerator set at 42 degrees or below. But they will stay fresh longer at a temperature closer to 32 degrees.



Rusty Pelican Salad with Honey Dressing

Iceberg lettuce

Romaine lettuce




6 cups finely sliced fresh mushrooms

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped

1 pound small shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 bay leaf

Pinch of salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon


11/4 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup prepared mustard

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of salt

Pinch of Accent\ Cut assorted salad greens into 1-inch pieces to measure a total of 6 cups. Place in a large bowl; chill.

Poach shrimp 2-3 minutes in boiling water seasoned with bay leaf, salt and juice of half lemon. Remove from heat, run cold water over, drain and set aside in refrigerator.

Prepare dressing by combining the mayonnaise, oil, honey,

mustard, onion, parsley, lemon juice, salt and Accent. The

dressing may be kept in a glass jar, refrigerated, for up to

7 days.

To serve, combine salad greens, shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs. Toss with dressing and serve. Makes 6 servings. - From Pinch of Salt Lake

Buttermilk Salad Dressing

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh shallots, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste Combine all ingredients; chill. Makes 2 cups.

Green Salad with Lemon-Chive Dressing

1-2 small head romaine lettuce

2 heads endive

1/2 pound spinach

1 bunch watercress

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives Wash greens; slice mushrooms and combine with greens. Combine all dressing ingredients; chill. Toss with greens before serving. Serves 6.

Orange and Green Salad


1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2-4 drops Tabasco sauce


1/2 cup almond slivers

3 tablespoons sugar


1 head iceberg lettuce

1 head romaine lettuce

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

4 scallions, chopped

1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained Combine all dressing ingredients; mix well. Cover and chill to allow flavors to blend while preparing remainder of ingredients.

In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast almonds and sugar lightly until sugar just melts; set aside.

To serve, tear washed greens into bite-size pieces and add celery, scallions and oranges. Pour dressing over greens; toss well. Garnish with almonds. Makes 10-12 servings.

Greens with Creamy Tarragon Dressing

6 cups greens, romaine, spinach, Bibb lettuce

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons almond oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons toasted almonds Combine all ingredients; chill. Serves 6.

Radicchio, Arugula and Endive Salad

1 head radicchio

2 bunches arugula

2 heads Belgian endive

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste Wash and break greens into bite-size pieces. Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over greens and toss lightly. Serve immediately; serves 4.

Low-Calorie Veggie Salad Dressing

1 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated

1 tablespoon finely chopped green pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped red pepper

2 scallions, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste Combine all ingredients; chill. Makes 11/2 cups.

Spinach Salad

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup salad oil

1 1/4 pounds spinach


1 Granny Smith apple, diced

1/3 cup dry-roasted Spanish peanuts

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well; pour into salad bowl.

Wash and dry spinach; remove any tough stems. Tear leaves into bite-size pieces and place in salad bowl on top of dressing. Do not toss. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Toss well just before serving, including any or all of the garnishes. Serves 6-8. - From A Private Collection

Cumin Vinaigrette

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Combine the vinegar, mustard, cumin, garlic, pepper and

salt in a small bowl; whisk well. Slowly drizzle in the olive

oil, whisking constantly until smooth. Makes two cups.