Sautéed Lettuce with Asian Flavor

Home gardeners might find themselves with a super-abundance of lettuce from time to time. I sure do, for instance, right now, when my first planting of lettuce didn’t develop much when we transplanted it to the garden bed, but caught up to maturity along with the second planting. One way to take advantage of it quick before it bolts is to cook it.

Some time back, I wrote about grilling romaine lettuce: brush a whole head with olive oil, lay it on the grill for a few moments until it wilts a bit on the outside, and serve it up sliced with salad dressing on it. That is really tasty and here is a companion recipe that uses a wok or big sauté pan and creates a similar dish.

If you think about a typical vinaigrette, it has something sour, like vinegar, some oil, and sometimes something sweet. Goodness knows, you can use a straight-up vinaigrette salad dressing for this dish, but I decided to give it an Asian flavor and so combined sesame oil, with rice vinegar, a sprinkle of sugar, and salt and pepper. (Instead of rice vinegar, I could’ve used dry sherry.) I dropped three coarsely chopped heads of garden buttercrunch into a little vegetable oil with chopped up garlic (and had I been a little more ambitious, I could have added some peeled and chopped ginger) heated until it was hot. Then I quickly flipped it until it just wilted but the ribs of the lettuce were still crunchy, then dribbled in the vinegar and oil mixture. It made enough for five of us.

I sure as heck wouldn’t do this with purchased lettuce unless I was desperate for some kind of variety in my vegetable eating. But maybe you would. It is nice for a change, that’s for sure. The recipe that follows, easily doubled or tripled, is suitable for one head of lettuce, which provides two servings.

Asian Sautéed Lettuce
Serves: 2
  • Asian Sautéed Lettuce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoons rice vinegar or dry sherry
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 head of lettuce, iceberg, butter head, or romaine
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  1. Whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar or sherry and sugar and set aside.
  2. Chop the head of lettuce into a few large chunks.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan and add the garlic.
  4. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, then add the lettuce.
  5. Using tongs, flip the lettuce in the wok or pan until it shrinks to about half, and the soft part of the leaves are wilted but the ribs are still firm.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the sauce, flip lettuce once more, then serve.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.