If you go to the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market early, before the bell rings at 8:30 and the crowds fill the streets and the marine layer from the nearby Pacific burns off in the late summer sun, you'll notice some things you might miss later on. Wolfgang Puck shucking corn alone at one market stall, Sherry Yard inspecting figs at another. And at the tables of Coleman Family Farm, you'll find a crate filled with Forellenschluss, the speckled romaine that often sells out if you wait too long past opening.
If you think that all lettuces are the same, you haven't tried Forellenschluss, which looks kind of like a head of lettuce as painted by Camille Pissarro. The romaine is an Austrian heirloom variety -- the name means "speckled trout" in German -- and its dark green leaves are dappled with flecks of maroon. Farmer Bill Coleman has been growing the hard-to-find lettuce for about 12 years, he estimates, on his 6-acre farm in Carpenteria. "My daughter sends us the seeds from Austria," Coleman explained on a recent Wednesday morning.
Forellenschluss has a mild flavor but discernible flavor, and it holds up better than most lettuces in the heat. That said, it's delicate in texture, more so than other kinds of romaine, so get it out of the sun as soon as you get home from the market.
The gorgeous patterns on the leaves mean that Forellenschluss makes a visually spectacular salad. Instead of burying it under heavy dressings or ingredients, try a simple vinaigrette -- or just a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and some Maldon salt. We like to add shaved Pecorino Romano and rye bread toasted and rubbed with raw garlic for a lighter variation on Caesar salad (throw in some salt-cured anchovies). Or you could get really cute and serve the lettuce with an actual pan-fried trout and see if anybody gets the joke -- although you'd probably have to invite some German-speaking friends over for dinner.
Check our interactive farmer's market map for the market near you.
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