In the West's luxuriously crowded field of greens, there's another player. Until recently, mâche ― also known as lamb's lettuce or corn salad and a longtime staple in France ― could be found here mainly in tony restaurants and upscale markets. Now, however, Epic Roots, founded by former chef Todd Koons, is growing it on a large scale in California's Salinas Valley.
Sweet, nutty, and a little bit wild-tasting, mâche is a multitasker. Its delicate round leaves make a fresh background for spring's best veggies, as in the salad here from Koons. But its hearty texture lets mâche work equally well as a cooking green. Use our suggestions below as a starting point for many mâche experiments. Mâche is available year-round in many markets, including Raley's and some Albertsons, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Markets. Epic Roots: (415) 331-8271.
More mâche ideas
Wilted salad: mix with warm sautéed chopped bacon and sliced mushrooms, and a little balsamic vinegar.
Pasta: toss with cooked noodles, garlic sautéed in olive oil, toasted walnuts, and lots of shredded parmesan cheese.
Sauce for chicken or fish: blanch for 30 seconds (keep pushing mâche under water), then purée with white wine vinegar and chopped garlic sautéed in olive oil.
Soup: purée with sautéed onions and some chicken broth, then heat with a white sauce seasoned with fresh-grated nutmeg; top with cooked shrimp or crab.
Side dish: braise in a little chicken broth for about 2 minutes; spritz with lemon juice.