The smell of celtuce brings me back to the kitchens of China and in Taiwan. Cooking celtuce is the smell of Chinese food to me. Chinese people don’t really eat raw salads or vegetables, most are cooked (even lettuce) or incorporated into dishes in a variety of ways. This recipe for celtuce is a great side dish (it would go well with the cabbage rolls) or other Chinese main. ~ Michael
2 stalks of celtuce
2 stems of chinese celery (or ¼ cup of celery leaves)
1 tablespoon (more or less to your preference) of fermented chilis
Salt and pepper
Cut the celtuce. Start by plucking off leaves from the stem of the celtuce. You should have a nice long, exposed stem (Save the leaves! We will use them in this recipe). Next, cut off the tough, knobby end (root end) of the celtuce. Then cut off the remaining crown of leaves from the stem to have a cylindrical shape. Cut the stem into 4-6” pieces. Cut those pieces in half lengthwise, and then cut into one inch sections on a diagonal.
Peel the celtuce. The skin will be tougher on the lower section, so use a knife to remove the skin. The other sections can be easily peeled off using a vegetable peeler. It’s okay if some streaky or fibrous looking pieces remain on the flesh of the celtuce after removing the skin. The flesh should look like a vibrant jade green.
Finely dice your green garlic and set aside.
Finely chop two stems of Chinese celery (or just the leaves of regular celery).
Add two - three tablespoons of a neutral, high smoke point oil (like rice bran, grapeseed, canola, etc) to a pan and heat over medium. Add your cut celtuce and a sprinkling of salt. Saute for about a minute or so until some liquid appears in the pan, then add the green garlic. The garlic should not burn, so turn down heat if needed. Continue to saute, sensing the celtuce and green garlic coming together and getting softer.
As the celtuce is cooking, make a stack of half of the leaves and cut them into thin ribbons.
Presently, only add the thicker pieces to the sauté and reserve the softer ends to be added later (so they won’t overcook, they will cook quickly).
Continue to sauté until the celtuce is soft, but still has a bit of a crunch. Add a tablespoon of vegetable broth if needed to keep everything moist and prevent the garlic from burning.
Add the remaining leaves to the pan (it will look like a lot of leaves from two stalks of celtuce, but they will cook down) and sauté until wilted and soft over high heat. Cooking it quickly will help everything stay as green as possible.
Add the chopped celery and a tablespoon (or your desired amount) to fermented chilis and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in a dish as a side to any of your favorite mains.