A near-instant springy green vegetable before the springy greens. (And, yes, you can cook lettuce -- here's why you should.) Note: You can use this technique on many other vegetables in season, including romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress, baby bok choy, asparagus (fat spears sliced 1/4-inch thick on the bias; pencil spears in 2-inch lengths), snow peas and snap peas. Adapted slightly from The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen (Simon & Schuster, 1999) and Saveur Magazine —Genius Recipes
rice wine or dry sherry
freshly ground white or black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons
peanut oil or other neutral oil
scallions, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
cloves garlic, thinly sliced or smashed
medium head iceberg lettuce, cored, outermost leaves discarded, inner leaves torn into 4-inch wide pieces (or substitute 12 ounces of other greens -- see headnote)
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine or sherry, sugar, and pepper; set sauce aside.
Heat a wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add peanut oil, half of the scallions (including all of the white and light green pieces), and garlic and cook until garlic is golden, about 5 seconds. Add lettuce and stir-fry until lettuce softens slightly, about 1 minute. Drizzle in sauce and cook until lettuce is just coated with the sauce, about 1 minute. Season with salt, divide between 4 bowls while lettuce is just tender and still bright green, and garnish with remaining scallions.
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