Nope, that’s not “lettuce” misspelled. If you’ve never had celtuce before, you’re not alone. The space age-looking stem lettuce isn’t a common ingredient outside of Chinese cooking, but that may change soon. For years, the folks at Coleman Family Farms in Carpinteria, California, have been trying to introduce celtuce to customers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Lucky for us, Zak Walters and Chris Phelps of Salt’s Cure are helping to spread the word about this often overlooked vegetable.
The chef-owner team have a new dish on their menu at their West Hollywood restaurant that allows the celtuce’s “mild, nutty, herbaceous flavor” to shine through. The romaine-flavored stalks taste best when contrasted with other pungent ingredients like “green garlic, radishes, chiles and ginger.” At Salt’s Cure, Walters cooks down the gnarly stalks to make a chilled purée that he serves with marinated octopus, blood orange crisps and bitter greens like arugula or ruby streak mustard frills from Windrose Farms.
Puréed, sautéed, blanched, steamed or raw, celtuce is a versatile ingredient worth adding to your repertoire. Curious to try it before you buy it? Head straight over to Salt’s Cure while it’s still in season.
Marinated Octopus with Celtuce Purée, Blood Orange and House Olives
4–5 lbs whole octopus
1 gallon water (for poaching)
Blood Orange Marinade
Celtuce Purée (recipe follows)
Blood Orange Wheels (recipe follows)
Blood Orange Marinade Ingredients
1 cup blood orange juice (or any other seasonal citrus)
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
2 fresh bay leaves
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely minced
¼ cup fresh oregano, finely minced
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Poach the octopus: In a large sauce pot, bring 1 gallon of water up to a rapid boil and add a large pinch of salt.
Submerge the octopus in the boiling water, then immediately reduce the heat to low. The water should be just below a simmer. If your octopus floats to the surface, place a heavy plate or some other weight over it to keep it submerged. Cook the octopus for 4 to 6 hours. Once done, you should be able to easily insert and remove a fork from the octopus’s cooked flesh.
Cure the octopus: Using either large slotted spoons or a wok strainer, gently remove the octopus from the sauce pot. Discard the poaching liquid. Transfer the octopus to a colander with a plate beneath it and allow to air-dry in the refrigerator over night.
Prepare the marinade: Whisk together the citrus juice, olive oil, minced herbs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Reserve the Blood Orange Marinade until ready to use.
Prepare the octopus: Remove the octopus from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, make cuts to remove each of the tentacles and beak from the octopus’s head. (The beak will be located towards the bottom of the octopus’s head.) Slice the head into thin strips; they should look like small rounds. Then slice the tentacles into small bites.
Marinate the octopus: Transfer the octopus to a non-reactive dish. Pour the Blood Orange Marinade over the octopus, making sure it is completely submerged. Marinate for at least 6 hours before serving.
To serve: Spoon 2 tablespoons of the Celtuce Purée onto the bottom of a shallow bowl or a medium-sized plate. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, arrange 6 ounces of the marinated octopus over the purée. Garnish with arugula, chicory and dried citrus wheels.
Note: The Blood Orange Marinade can be used a second time.
2 cups celtuce, washed, peeled and diced
½ cup onion, chopped
¼ cup garlic, sliced
2 tbsps unsalted butter
Juice of one lemon
Cook the celtuce: Add the celtuce, onions, garlic, a pinch of salt and black pepper to a small saucepan with just enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring the the water to a low simmer and cook for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the vegetables are very tender and falling apart.
Prepare the purée: Transfer the vegetables, liquid and all to a blender, then add the butter and lemon juice. Purée on high until completely smooth. Adjust the salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the Celtuce Purée to a container to cool. Cover with lid and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to infuse.
DRIED CITRUS WHEELS
1 blood orange or other citrus
A food dehydrator (optional)
A sheet tray, if not using a dehydrator
Parchment paper, if not using a dehydrator
Preheat the oven to 150ºF, if not using a dehydrator.
Prepare the citrus: Wash the citrus very well. Using a mandolin, carefully slice the citrus as thinly as possible.
Dry the citrus: Transfer the citrus rounds to a food dehydrator set to 160ºF. Allow the citrus to dry overnight. Or, if not using a dehydrator, transfer the citrus rounds to a parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Bake the citrus in a 150ºF oven overnight, using a wooden spoon to prop the oven door open.
To store: Any unused citrus wheels can be stored in an air-tight container with lid.
Photo of Marinated octopus with celtuce purée by Camellia Tse.