When Jerri’s Mennonite ancestors came to the the United States, they brought with them recipes that reflect the history of their search for religious freedom as they moved from the coast of the North Sea to the steppes of Russia. “Warmer Salat” most likely originated when the followers of Menno Simons were still living in Friesland, an ideal place for growing beautiful lettuce.
When Jerri was a little girl she thought that her mother was saying that the family would have “vatima salat” because W’s are pronounced as V’s and Esther rolled her R’s so decisively, but however you pronounce the words, Esther’s Warmer Salat is delicious.
Esther taught her how to make this version of “warm salad” which we both like a lot. It makes a good lunch accompanied with bread and butter, or you can serve it with boiled potatoes as the main dish for dinner. It is quick and easy to make. The only downside of this recipe is that it has more calories and fat than plain lettuce. On the upside, it tastes a lot better than plain lettuce. If you always eat your lettuce without dressing, you might want to skip this recipe, but if you occasionally drizzle oil and vinegar over it, be sure to try it.
5 or 6 cups leaf lettuce (not iceberg lettuce)
3 or 4 strips bacon
3 or 4 T flour
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. salt
2 T cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
Wash the lettuce, separate the leaves from the stem and tear large leaves in half. Slice the bacon into 1/4 inch pieces and fry it until done but not crisp. Drain the bacon fat, leaving about 3 tablespoons in the pan. Add the flour and salt and cook for 2 or 3 minutes to make a roux. Add the vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of water and cook until you have a thick gravy. Add the lettuce and cook one or two minutes until the lettuce is warm and wilted. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve immediately accompanied by vinegar and salt, so guests can add more if they wish.
NOTES: If you would like the correct pronunciation, it is “VARmuh zaLAHT.” Julia Child has a recipe for braised lettuce, so it is not only the Mennonites who cook lettuce until it wilts. This recipe is a lot simpler than Julia’s.