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Crystal Organics lettuce 

In the States, we sometimes forget that a simple salad has the power to take center stage at any meal. In France, salads are artfully arranged and elevated with emulsified dressings singing with the tang of vinegar. In short, the French treat lettuce with respect. Why do salads get such a bum rap here? Maybe it's those sad lettuces you see at the supermarket. Lifeless leaves cramped into an airtight bag seem so uninteresting and uninspiring. There is hope, however, from Crystal Organic Farm.

As the leaves start to change, Crystal's Nicolas Donck is preoccupied with some leaves of his own. Farmer Donck's lettuces are the most pristine salad leaves out there. He grows tight little bunches of intensely peppery arugula, a delicate mix of baby lettuces, and the most irresistible of them all, the endive mix – a small homage to Donck's Belgian heritage. The mix contains two types of escarole, radicchio, frisée and the occasional pleasant oops – like a bit of kale or beet greens. It's too pretty to tear into bite-sized pieces.

The lettuce is so good I find myself buying three bags per week because it provides the perfect burst of green next to any dish. Top it with crispy bacon and a runny poached egg or toss it with any warm dressing you can think up. Throw in some cubed beets, crumbled Maytag blue cheese and some roasted walnuts for a salad that might make you neglect your main course.

Endive is a notoriously bitter range of greens, which makes them a little too startling for more sensitive palates. If you find yourself in this camp, go the sauté route in an ample pan with two glugs of olive oil, salt and, if you're feeling dangerous, a pinch of red pepper flakes.

$5 per bag at the Local Farmstand (located outside of Star Provisions) and at the Morningside Farmers' Market. www.crystalorganicfarm.wordpress.com.

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