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In the Kitchen: Super salads, hydroponic lettuce

I used to think lettuce was just lettuce. Sure I believed in buying organic lettuce whenever possible, but beyond that, I never gave lettuce that much thought. 

Then a friend told me about Circle A Lettuce — hydroponic lettuce grown right here in Forsyth County by Jeff Adams and his crew at Circle A Farm. Talk about life changing in a lettuce sort of way.

Jeff was in construction for 20 plus years before deciding to go into the hydroponic lettuce farming business back in 2011. His construction skills, along with help from his father, enabled him to build the giant greenhouse where all of that lettuce magic happens. 

Open for business in 2012, Circle A Lettuce continues to grow (pun intended), now offering eight varieties of lettuce and several different microgreens. 

The state-of-the-art growing system allows them to grow greens from seeds that are GMO and pesticide free. In addition, the greens are loaded with nutrients so they are even more healthy than regular lettuces. 

Sometimes we all forget that the food in our grocery stores, for the most part, often travels thousands of years before it lands at the store and then your dinner table. Circle A Lettuce takes 30-45 days from seed to finish and then is picked right before you sit down to enjoy it. 

This is the best lettuce I have ever eaten. I can even spot it when I have enjoyed salad in certain restaurants they supply. 

The lettuce also stays fresher, longer than store-bought lettuce. You can buy their lettuce right at the greenhouse, or you can order online and have it delivered right to your door. 

Just check their website to see if they deliver to your zip code. 

I love their baby romaine lettuce and order that and their bib lettuce pretty much every week. The spring mix is also delicious as is their tropicana variety. 

The baby Kale is amazing. The microgreens make a great addition to salads and sandwiches and are extremely healthy.

Besides the great taste and texture, one of my favorite things about Circle A Lettuce is you don’t have to wash it. The lettuce is completely protected in the greenhouse environment and of course, no herbicides or pesticides are ever used. 

You simply must try this lettuce. Support local and get your salad game on. 

 Here are some fantastic main dish salad recipes to help you enjoy your lettuce even more. 

This salad is one of our favorites — the salad dressing is so much better than anything you can find on grocery store shelves. 

Cobb salad 

1 bunch Romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

6 slices bacon, cooked, drained and chopped

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

4 hard boiled eggs, cut into wedges

1 cup good quality blue cheese, crumbled

1 avocado, peeled, pit removed and chopped

2 green onions, chopped

Ranch dressing (recipe follows)

Combine lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, blue cheese, avocado and green onions in a large bowl. Toss with desired amount of dressing and serve. (Serves four)

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You can make this thicker by adding more sour cream and mayonnaise, or thinner by adding more buttermilk. 

Ranch dressing

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped, or 1 ½ teaspoon dried dill

1/4 cup fresh chives, minced

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Dash hot sauce

Whisk together all ingredients, thinning with buttermilk if you want it thinner, or by adding a bit more sour cream and mayonnaise if you want it thicker. 

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Chef’s salad with ham and cheese

1-2 heads bib lettuce

2 cups cooked deli ham, cubed

1 ½ cups Swiss cheese, cubed

4 hard boiled eggs, cut into wedges

ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1/4 cup chives, chopped

Creamy lemon-mustard dressing (recipe follows)

Tear bib lettuce into bite sized pieces. In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, ham, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and carrots. Toss with desired amount of dressing and arrange egg wedges on top. Garnish with chives. 

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Creamy lemon-mustard dressing

Zest from 1 lemon

Juice from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup half and half

1½ tablespoon good quality Dijon mustard

Combine ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to combine. Taste for seasoning. 

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Sometimes you just want a simple side salad to accompany dinner. This spring mix salad is just the thing. Don’t shy away from making this simple vinaigrette — it takes only minutes to make and is infinitely better than its store-bought counterparts. In addition, it has only a few healthy ingredients instead of bad oil and additives. 

Spring salad and classic vinaigrette

1 bunch spring salad mix

2 tablespoons sherry-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Pinch of sugar or a little honey

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil

Place spring salad mix in bowl. In a jar, combine all ingredients and shake to combine. Add desired amount of salad dressing to the spring salad mix and toss well.