E. coli-tainted romaine prompts fear about bagged salads



Like rotisserie chickens and pre-cut fruit, bag salad kits and bagged lettuces are a way of life for many. But the recent recall of chopped romaine lettuce further clarified the reason I don’t have a whole lot love for bagged salad.

On occasion, I do buy them. Like everyone else I get into a rush and a bag salad or salad kit is an easy grab-and-go buy. It certainly answers the convenience call. Extra minutes are extra minutes, and everyone values time spent on a task.

While the convenience factor is huge, I do wonder about the quality and just how long those chopped lettuces have been in that bag.

But what probably gets to me the most is how much they cost. While costs vary by brand, like being triple washed they can be triple the price of buying a fresh head of lettuce.

And with salad kits, it’s also the amount of ingredients. A few months ago, I bought a Caesar salad kit at a price of $3-something. While around a $1 per person doesn’t seem like much, you can buy a whole head of romaine or other leafy lettuce for about $1.50 and it will feed more than three people.

As the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from Yuma, Ariz., expanded last week, federal authorities were urging people who bought chopped romaine lettuce in the United States to throw it away.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 53 cases of food poising in 16 states, which prompted Consumer Reports to advise consumers to avoid all romaine lettuce.

Since salads are ever popular, the recipe on this file offers an alternative to romaine. It’s a main dish salad topped with sweet pan-seared scallops, and it comes loaded with any greens you like.

To prepare the greens, including arugula, Bibb and romaine, I use a method adapted from Bon Appétit magazine: Fill a large bowl or clean sink with cold water. Have ready a clean, absorbent kitchen towel or several layers of paper towel. Remove the core from the lettuce or stem and separate the leaves. Add the leaves to the water and swish them around to agitate them and rinse off any dirt. Let the lettuce sit for a few minutes so the dirt sinks to the bottom of the bowl or sink. Remove the leaves from the water and shake off the excess water.

Then lift the lettuce, holding it over the bowl or sink, and allow the water to drain. Spread the lettuce on a clean, absorbent kitchen towel and roll up the towel. Place in a plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator.

USA TODAY contributed to this report.



Serves: 4 (as a main course) / Prep time: 15 minutes / Total time: 35 minutes

This recipe screams fresh ingredients with raspberries, fresh greens and fresh herbs. You can scale back on the olive oil to reduce the fat.

1 pound sea scallops, patted dry

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup good-quality olive oil or oil flavored with basil, chile or rosemary

Juice of 1 lemon

Fresh shredded herbs such as basil or tarragon, optional


1/2 cup raspberry vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1/2 cup good quality olive oil


12 cups mixed light-colored baby greens, such as Bibb, Boston, frisée or any favorite greens torn into bite-sized pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

1 cup fresh raspberries

Season the scallops with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and sauté until cooked through and nicely browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Drizzle with the lemon juice and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs if using; set aside.

To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients until emulsified. Set aside.

In a large bowl toss together the salad greens and mushrooms. Divide the greens among four dinner-size serving plates. Arrange the scallops on top and sprinkle with chopped walnuts and raspberries. Drizzle with half of the vinaigrette and pass the remainder separately.

Adapted from “Main-Course Salads” by Ray Overton ($15.95, Longstreet).

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

424 calories (63 percent from fat), 30 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 17 g carbohydrates, 25 g protein, 360 mg sodium, 37 mg cholesterol, 134 mg calcium, 5 g fiber.

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