Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June 28, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Fennel

Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:

Green Scallions OR Green Top Purple Cipollini Onions:  Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Italian and/or Green Zucchini:  Zucchini Cornbread;  Sour Cream Zucchini Bread;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Sweet Baby Broccoli:  Green ShakshukaCold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Rainbow Chard:  Green Shakshuka  

Sugar Snap or Snow Peas:  Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger

FennelRoasted Fennel & White Bean Dip;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Here we are in the last week of June!  Strawberry season is winding down which means garlic harvest is right around the corner!  We’re looking forward to attending the annual Garlic Harvest dinner at Harvest Restaurant in Madison on July 15.  Tami Lax hosts this dinner every year to help us celebrate the garlic harvest.  While we wait for this year’s garlic crop to come in, we have plenty of other vegetables to keep us occupied in the kitchen!

Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip
Photo from food52
Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, fennel!  I’ve included two recipes for you to try this week.  The first recipe, Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip came to me with a strong recommendation from our friend Sarah.  This recipe suggests serving it with toasted bread, but I’m going to take it beyond an appetizer and turn it into dinner.  Serve this dip with a big platter of toasted bread, olives, some slices of salami and fresh vegetables such as sliced kohlrabi, cucumbers and lettuce leaves.  Take it out on the patio with a glass of wine and some good company and enjoy.  The other recipe utilizing this week’s featured fennel is my recipe for Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below) I actually created this recipe with inspiration from a recipe for stuffed shells that was shared in our Facebook group last year. I didn’t have the patience to stuff shells, so I created my own version of a lasagna-like dish.  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.  It actually is pretty easy to make and assemble and it will serve a small army!  If you are a smaller household, you may want to cut the recipe in half and assemble the casserole in a 8 x 8—inch baking dish.

Zucchini Cornbread, photo from brown eyed baker
This week’s romaine lettuce is a classic choice for a Traditional Caesar Salad or change it up a little and try this recipe for Grilled Romaine Lettuce which features a Caesar like dressing that is painted onto the crisp romaine and put on the grill to add a little smoky, charred depth of flavor.  Add some chicken to the grill to accompany the Grilled Romaine Lettuce and make a loaf of Zucchini Cornbread to complete the meal!  This cornbread recipe was shared by a member in our Facebook Group last week.  If you have some extra zucchini this week, check out this recipe for Sour Cream Zucchini Bread.  It’ll make a tasty desert or eat it for breakfast!

Green Shakshuka, picture from epicurious
There was a lot of good cooking and recipe-sharing happening in the Facebook Group last week, including this delicious recipe for Green Shakshuka.  I’ve made a tomato based version of this dish, but this green version sounds and looks delicious and is a good way to use a lot of greens!  You make a mix of wilted greens as the base, add some herbs and spices and then crack eggs on top and let it all come to the finish line together!  This is a great dish to make for brunch, but it can also serve as dinner.  You know I love any dish that includes eggs and this is no exception.  Use the chard in this week’s box along with the greens from your broccoli and kohlrabi.

I found this recipe for Middle Eastern Chicken Burgers with a Yogurt Cucumber Sauce and will prepare these for dinner served along with spicy Kohlrabi Fries.  

Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger
Picture from smitten kitchen
If you have any cucumber left over, add it to this recipe for Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger.  This is a simple dish made with buckwheat noodles dressed with a simple sauce based on miso and ginger.  It calls for “a mixture of raw vegetables of your choice” which means this recipe can easily be adapted to include whatever you have in your fridge at the time.  This will make a great salad to enjoy for a quick, yet nourishing lunch.  I’m going to use cucumbers, kohlrabi, sugar snap or snow peas and my green onion tops to make this this week.  You could also use some of the broccoli and zucchini if you like.  The trick is to keep it simple and seasonal. 

Finally, lets celebrate this year’s strawberry season with  Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce.  Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day and pancakes are one of my favorite foods.  Top them off with fresh strawberries and life is pretty good. 

And on that note I’m going to sign off.  Have an awesome week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Fennel 

When I was in culinary school I worked as a cook at a restaurant called Mojo Grill.  One of the signature appetizers on the menu was a classy dish of bacon-wrapped scallops served with fennel and a delicious Sambuca cream sauce.  I was pretty excited when I was granted permission to prepare this dish, and even made it for a restaurant critic one night!  After cooking the scallops until they were nicely browned and the bacon was crispy, I’d remove them from the pan, add several pieces of fresh fennel and then get ready for the excitement.  With a bottle of Sambuca (an Italian anise-flavored liqueur)  in one hand and my other hand on the handle of the pan, I’d pour some of the liqueur into the pan and  announce “STAND BACK” as I tipped the pan away from me and watched the alcohol shoot up in flames!  It was meant to be an impressive display for diners to watch as they peered into our open kitchen.  (Do not try this at home.)  Once the flames burned off I reduced the heat, added some heavy cream to the pan and let the sauce cook down a little bit until it was thick, creamy and fragrant and the fennel was tender.  I will never forget the perfect way all the components of this dish came together with fennel as the star of the show.  I believe it was this dish that gave me a new respect and appreciation for this unique vegetable.

Fennel growing in the field
Fennel can be easily identified by its feathery tops and distinct aroma.  It has the flavor of anise, or mild licorice, which some people love and others are still learning to like.  If you are in the latter group, please keep an open mind about fennel and read on.  Fennel is not a root vegetable, it actually grows above the ground and the feathery tops create a magical, cloud-like appearance in the field that makes you want to walk down the row while running your hands over the tops just to feel the softness and encourage the sweet aroma to fill the space around you.  Yes, it’s magical.  Nearly all of the fennel plant is edible and is comprised of three main parts.  The white bulb at the base of the plant is the most commonly used part.  The soft, fine, feathery green portion extending off the stalks is called “fronds.” The fronds are also edible and can be used more as an herb, seasoning or garnish.  The stalks are sometimes too fibrous to eat, however they have a lot of flavor so don’t discard them!
Pasta with Golden Fennel
Fennel is often found in Italian cuisine, but it is also included in some classical French dishes and may also be found in the cuisine of different parts of Asia.  It may be eaten both raw and cooked.  In its raw form, you’ll find it to be crunchy and refreshing with a stronger anise flavor.  It’s super important, when eating fennel raw, to slice it paper thin.  It’s a very dense vegetable, so it’s a little hard to chomp down on a big, thick slice of it with enjoyment.  The flavor, texture and overall eating experience is greatly enhanced by simply slicing it very thinly with either a mandolin or just a sharp knife.  In its raw form it’s often used in vegetable and grain salads and can be pickled.  Fennel may also be cooked and can be roasted, sautéed, stir-fried, simmered in soups and stews and makes a delicious, flavorful gratin.  When cooked, the flavor of fennel mellows and is much more subtle.  This allows it to fade from the front, in-your-face position to a much more discreet presence as a background flavor that rounds out a dish.  For those of you who are still learning to like fennel, I’d encourage you to use it in a recipe where it will be cooked in some way.  This recipe for Pasta with Golden Fennel has proven to be a winner many times over the past few years with members who didn’t really care for fennel.  It’s also the only fennel dish the entire crew would eat when I was cooking for the crew my first summer on the farm!

Fennel pairs well with a wide variety of foods including seafood, poultry, pork and cured meats such as salami and sopressata.  It also works well with cream as well as fresh and hard cheese such as feta and Parmesan.  Recipes featuring fennel will often include white wine, honey, lemons and other citrus fruit and/or vegetables such as tomatoes, celery, carrots, cucumbers as well as beets, dried beans and herbs including parsley, dill and basil.  In addition to citrus fruit, fennel also pairs well with pomegranates, berries, apples and stone fruit. 

Cucumber-Fennel Fizz
Photo from food52
Fennel should be stored in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic to keep it fresh and crisp.  If you are using the fennel bulb, first peel off the outer layer of the bulb to wash away dirt that may be between the layers.  The outer layer is still usable after it is washed so don’t throw it away.  Cut the bulb in half and make a V-shaped cut into the core at the base of the fennel bulb.  Remove most of the core, then slice thinly or cut as desired. The bulb is crisp, sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked.  If you enjoy the fresh anise flavor of fennel, you will likely enjoy eating fennel in salads and other raw or lightly cooked preparations.  If you are eating it raw, don’t forget to slice it paper-thin.  The feathery fronds can be chopped finely or just tear up little tufts of them and add them to fresh salads, use them as a garnish for pasta or rice dishes, blend them into sauces, soups or vinaigrette, or even use them in a drink such as this recipe for Blended Lemonade with Ginger & Fennel or Cucumber-Fennel Fizz.  The stalks are more fibrous, so generally are not eaten, however don’t throw them away.  They have a lot of flavor in them!  Put them in a roasting pan underneath a pork roast or whole chicken and the flavor and aroma of the fennel will permeate the meat as it roasts and it will add a nice background flavor to the pan sauce you make from the drippings.  If you’re making a seafood or potato chowder, add the stalks to the pot to flavor the broth or creamy base and just remove them before serving.  They also add a nice background flavor to something as simple as vegetable stock. 

On our farm, we only plant two crops of fennel in the spring for harvest in late June/early July.  So now is the time to embrace this vegetable and give it a try.  In addition to the recipes included with our vegetable shares this week, I’ve also included two recipes including fennel in our fruit newsletter!  Of course you can always search for more recipes on our website that have been featured in previous newsletters.  Have fun and enjoy this unique vegetable!

Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole 

Yield:  8 servings

12 oz fusilli or penne pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onions, chopped finely
2 Tbsp garlic, chopped finely
1 cup fennel, small dice
1 cup broccoli or kohlrabi, small dice or florets
1 ½ cups zucchini, small dice
1 cup greens, thinly sliced (chard, kale, etc)
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz ground beef, browned
16 oz cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup chopped fresh herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, oregano, etc)
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
4 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red wine
¾ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

  1. First, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until it is about ⅔ cooked.  You want it to be undercooked when you add it to the casserole as it will soak up some of the moisture in the casserole and continue to cook and soften while baking.  Once the pasta is ⅔ cooked, drain the pasta into a colander, discarding the cooking liquid.  Set the pasta aside.
  3. In a medium sized sautè pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and sautè for 1-2 minutes or until tender and fragrant.  Next add the fennel and broccoli and sautè for another 3-4 minutes before adding the zucchini.  Season the vegetable mixture with 1 tsp of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the greens.  Cook the vegetables about half way and then remove them from the heat so they don’t become overcooked!  They’ll continue cooking in the casserole so you want them to be a little undercooked when you remove them from the heat.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking, mix the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:  ground beef, cottage cheese, egg, fresh herbs and red pepper flakes.  Once the vegetables are finished, add them to the mixture.  Taste a little bit and add more salt if necessary, then stir in the pasta.  Set aside.
  5. Heat the tomato sauce in a pan over medium heat.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar, red wine and ½ teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Once the sauce is heated through, remove from the heat and taste a little bit. Add more salt or pepper if necessary.
  6. Put a thin layer of the hot tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Spread the vegetable mixture over the top, and then pour the remainder of the sauce over the entire dish being sure to evenly cover the vegetable mixture.
  7. Bake the casserole in the oven, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until the tomato sauce is bubbling a little bit.  After 25-30 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven and spread the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.  Put it back in the oven and bake it for another 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve hot.
Recipe created by:  Chef Andrea Yoder
Note:  You can vary the vegetables you include in this casserole according to what you have available as long as you have about 3 ½ cups of diced vegetables and about 1 cup of greens.

Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip 

Serves 12 as an appetizer

For Roasted Fennel: 
1 large or 2 small Fennel Bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces 
2-3 Tbsp olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, still in papery shell 
1 pinch salt and pepper (more to taste) 

For the Cannellini Bean puree: 
¾ cups olive oil 
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
2 ½ cups cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped 
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
½  cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated 
1 baguette, sliced 
  1. First make the roasted fennel. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Toss the fennel and garlic cloves in the olive oil and spread on a sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning twice during cooking. Take out and let cool. When cool squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins. 
  2. Start the cannellini bean puree. In a small frying pan heat ½ cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until lightly golden, add rosemary and cannellini beans and cook for one minute more. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Take it off the heat. 
  3. In a food processor combine the garlic bean mixture, fennel, roasted garlic, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup olive oil and all but 3 Tbsp of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Puree until smooth. 
  4. Raise oven temp to 450°F. Transfer puree into a small baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Feel free to add more. If your dish is near full, place it on a baking sheet, in case it bubbles over in the oven. Bake until cheese is golden on top, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with crostini.

NOTE:  This recipe was borrowed from  Serve this dip with bread as suggested, or serve it with fresh vegetables, olives, cured meats.  You could enjoy this as an appetizer, or eat it as dinner!

Evolution of a Farmer

By Dennis de Wilde

Dennis was out checking the crops with
Farmer Richard on Monday. Looks like the
tomatillos will be ready soon!

So, I am on my semi-annual visit to my brother’s Harmony Valley Farm….always an enjoyable experience to be in “the valley” and observe the bustle of more than 40 people engaged in the work of raising and marketing over 100 different varieties of organic vegetables while hearing how this large “farm family” is dealing with the accompanying weather and every year’s new business challenges. (As a retired business consultant, I find the depth and breadth of these challenges and the solutions to deal with them to be fascinating and inspiring.)  And, I often wonder, “How did this brother (Farmer Richard as he is now known) evolve, from the teenage rebel I grew up with, into the successful businessman/Farmer he is today?!”

Now and Then: Richard with his
high school yearbook.
In some ways, it is not so hard for me to look at who he was and to see how he became who he is today.  As brothers who were born only 16 months apart and were more or less of the same physical size since age 8/9, we shared equal responsibility for yard chores and later farming duties on the 800 acre family beef and grain farm in northeastern South Dakota.  But, it was clear from the start that Richard was the leader (or the brains of this duo), while I was a skinny version of the brawn - in other words, he laid out our daily work program and I executed (Richard also did his share). But more importantly, he answered to (or argued with) Dad regarding the planning decisions he made and the results from our efforts – Dad had a part-time day job, once this two-son crew was able to take on the farming duties.  Richard was leader, yes; but no one would have thought he was destined to be a Farmer – he left the farming to me and a younger sister every summer after his sophomore year in high school.  He spent the first summer weed-walking bean and corn fields in Nebraska, he worked a salmon fishing boat in Alaska the next and it was the stone quarry after that.  Now, while some might observe that he was a young lad mostly interested in young ladies during those summers away from the farm, I remember him returning with observations connecting the how and why regarding the way they did things in these different environments – he was an explorer and a learner.  When he returned at the end of the summers, he saw no reason not to put his new learnings into practice – an independence that may not have always been appreciated by the farm owner, his father.  No problem for Richard; he just did it his way – at the farm and, now that he had used his summer earning to buy a ’55 Chevy,’ in his personal life!  A rebel was born in of all places, South Shore, South Dakota.
As he entered college, his explorations, learnings, and independence became a way of life.  It was the late sixties; long-hair and non-conventional ways were in.  The rebel bought a motor bike (650 BSA) and chopped it!  He spent a summer hitch-hiking to California. He met people who thought differently about the world – where it had been and where it was going.  Earth-day was born – the seed of a cause was planted and Richard was a welcoming vessel.

He graduates college, with a degree in Mining Engineer and takes a conventional position with the US Bureau of Mines – a “new age” rebel with a bureaucratic day job. The Earth-day cause has far more pull for this explorer and learner than coming into an office day after day.  The questions “What is the purpose of this work, how can I change things, why am I here?” must have been bouncing around his head every day and night.  Without a connection between his cause and the work he was doing, the passion was missing – the separation from the Bureau of Mines was inevitable.

Blue Gentian Farm, Eagan, MN,
where Richard started exploring organic farming
Richard starts hanging around a day-care center for autistic children.  He enrolls in a graduate program to study autism.  He rents an old farm house – he is effectively back on the farm!  He wonders if there is a connection between chemical proliferation in the farming industry and the increase in the rate of the development of autism.  He re-connects with his farm upbringing, but he connects that with his Earth-day passion – he explores organic farming before organic farming was a defined methodology in the US agricultural community. It is 1973 – he has a cause and the rebel is determined to make it a career.  He will do it his way.  He will prove that you can integrate the honoring of “Mother Earth” and business success.  He will commit to a holistic lifestyle as a businessman (oh, that word was not used until years later, but it is fair to say it was that even then).  He will commit to making the world a better place by changing how farmers feed us.

Richard in the early days at Harmony Valley Farm
Over the following 40 years he goes on to train and inspire many new young farmers.  Learning to manage a business, manage employees, inspire employees and educate consumers.  And now I watch as he works to transition Harmony Valley Farm to dedicated employees. 

Thus, in hindsight it is easy to see how a first-born son of a strong-willed father accepts the challenges and opportunities that grants; becomes a leader who pushes boundaries and meets the complex challenges of growing and marketing organic produce to be enjoyed by those who understand, you are what you eat!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

June 21, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Celtuce

Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:

Celtuce:  Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce (see below) and Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger and Sesame (see below)

Purple or Green Scallions:  Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce (see below); Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger and Sesame (see below); Skillet Strata with Bacon, Cheddar, and GreensCreamy Zucchini-Cumin Dip

Sugar Snap Peas:  Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce (see below); Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint

Cucumbers:  Creamy Cucumber Salad

Red Butterhead Lettuce:  Simple Butter Lettuce Salad

Celtuce growing in our fields.
This week we get to experiment with a new vegetable!  Celtuce is not very well-known in this country, so it’s hard to find recipes to use it. The key is to just keep it simple so you don’t cover up its unique flavor.  As I was thinking about the best ways to use it, I couldn’t help but think of fried rice, thus I created this simple recipe for Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce (see below).  This is a simple way to prepare this week’s celtuce along with the sugar snap peas.  If you’d prefer to eat the celtuce raw, try the recipe for the Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger and Sesame (see below).  It’s delicious eaten alongside a simple piece of grilled or pan fried fish or chicken.

With the remaining sugar snap peas, consider making this Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint.  It’s light, refreshing and simple to make.  It also travels well, so it’s a good candidate to take to work with you.  As long as we’re on the topic of fresh, simple salads, we should talk about making a Creamy Cucumber Salad.  This salad becomes a staple dish every year during cucumber season.  If you don’t have fresh dill, you can substitute parsley, basil or any other fresh herb from your garden.  This salad makes a delicious dinner alongside a simple grilled hamburger.  If you’re grilling burgers this week, be sure to top them off with a few of the red butterhead lettuce leaves in this week’s box. 

Use the remainder of the red butterhead lettuce to make this Simple Butter Lettuce Salad.  It features a simple vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar, honey and olive oil.  The lettuce is dressed with this simple vinaigrette and then the salad is garnished with salty olives, shaved manchego cheese and crispy panko bread crumbs.  This salad will make a simple dinner when served with Pasta with Garlic Scape Pesto.  You could add some grilled chicken to the pasta as well if you are looking for a little extra protein.

Simple Butter Lettuce Salad
Photo by The Modern Proper
Last week this recipe for Pan-Fried Turnips with Thyme and Breadcrumbs popped into my inbox.  This recipe doesn’t call for the greens, but you could easily wilt the greens down and serve these crispy turnips on top. 

It’s that time of year when we need to get creative with finding ways to use and enjoy zucchini.  For starters, I am going to make Heidi Swanson’s recipe for “My Special Zucchini Bread”.  We featured this recipe in one of our 2014 newsletter.  This zucchini bread recipe includes crystallized ginger, poppy seeds and lemon zest which makes it a little different than traditional zucchini bread recipes.  If you have some zucchini remaining, try the Creamy Zucchini-Cumin Dip recipe that we featured in the same newsletter.  It makes a delicious snack served with chips or crackers. 

Rainbow chard is packed full of nutrients and sometimes my body craves the thick, dark green leaves and colorful stems.  This week I’m going to make this recipe for Skillet Strata with Bacon, Cheddar, andGreens.  This recipe was created by Alexandra Stafford and is featured in a short video on  This is a great dish to serve for a weekend brunch or enjoy it for dinner throughout the week. 

Strawberries with Sour Cream and Dark Muscovado Sugar
Picture by food52.
I saved the sweetest part of the box for last.   One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh strawberries is simply topped with some really delicious fresh cream.  There’s an article at featuring 5 New Ways to Serve Strawberries and Cream which features a few creative variations on this simple concept.

I hope you enjoy experimenting with the celtuce this week.  Please let us know what you think about it and how you decide to use it!  See you next week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Celtuce 

Celtuce after trimmed in the field.
This week we’re excited to share a new vegetable with you.  We enjoy growing and learning about new vegetables and this year we decided to challenge ourselves as well as our members with celtuce.  Celtuce is thought to have originated in southern China and is also known as “Lettuce Stem.”  While it is relatively well-known in China, you seldom see it in the United States but it can be found in some Asian grocery stores.  Botanically, it is a member of the lettuce family.  The plant grows similarly to lettuce and the leaves resemble lettuce leaves.  While you can eat the leaves, the main feature of this plant is the long, thick stem.  The lower leaves are usually trimmed away as they can sometimes become bitter as the plant matures.  The upper leaves are usually left intact and are tender and generally less bitter if at all.  Once the leaves are trimmed away, the thick, white stem is revealed.  Celtuce is referred to as who sun in Chinese, but the term “celtuce” is the American name given to this vegetable when it was introduced to this continent by the Burpee Seed Company.  It was named such because of its stalk like resemblance to celery coupled with its lettuce-like qualities.  I actually think the stem on celtuce bears more resemblance to broccoli and personally, I would’ve named this vegetable Broctuce

Peeling celtuce.
Peeled celtuce vs unpeeled celtuce.
Celtuce may be eaten raw or cooked.  It has a unique flavor that is really unlike any other vegetable.  As much as I dislike using the term “nutty” to describe a vegetable, that really is the first word that comes to mind when I think about the flavor.  It also has a kind of smoky like characteristic to its flavor profile and if you smell the base of the stem, you’ll find it has a unique scent.  When you are preparing celtuce, the first step is to trim away the tender leaves on the top of the stem.  Save these and use them raw in a salad or, if you find them to be bitter, blanch them in boiling water to remove the bitterness and then eat them.  Peel away the outer skin on the stem and you’ll find a light green, transluscent vegetable inside.  It’s crispy and juicy when eaten raw or cooked.  It may be julienned or sliced thinly and eaten in a fresh, raw salad.  In China it’s often pickled.  You can also saute it or stir-fry it.  It is also sometimes used in soups, steamed or gently braised.  As I was experimenting with cooking celtuce, I started by just simply sautéing it in butter.  I melted some butter in a pan and sautéed some baby white turnips along with garlic scapes and minced scallions.  Once the turnips were tender and nearly finished cooking, I added thinly sliced celtuce stem to the pan and cooked it just a few more minutes. With just a little added salt and pepper, this turned out to be a delicious dish!  If you’re looking for something simple and fast to make for dinner, this is the way to go!

If you are looking on the internet for recipes using celtuce, you likely won’t find much.  Last Sunday we had the opportunity to talk with two guests who are from China and had experience eating and preparing celtuce.  They indicated that celtuce is generally eaten in very simple preparations without a lot of extra ingredients added in so as to preserve the innate flavor of the vegetable.  It does pair well with other spring vegetables such as the baby white turnips, sugar snap peas, greens, scallions and garlic scapes.  Store celtuce in the refrigerated, wrapped loosely in plastic or a damp towel.  I hope you enjoy experimenting with this new vegetable.  I’m still learning about celtuce and am interested in seeing how other members choose to use it, so please send us your ideas and feedback.  Have fun!

Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger 

Yield:  3-4 cups

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 celtuce stalks, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, thinly sliced (green tops included)
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Finely ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ tsp toasted white or black sesame seeds

  1.  Put vinegar and crystallized ginger in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes to soften the ginger.  Stir in the sunflower oil and set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine celtuce, scallions, cilantro and ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour the ginger vinaigrette over the vegetable mixture and stir well to combine.  Add the toasted sesame seeds and stir again.  Let the salad rest for a minimum of 15-20 minutes or overnight.  This will allow the flavors to come together.  
  3. Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more salt, pepper and/or vinegar as needed.  Serve this salad either at room temperature or refrigerated.

Recipe created by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm

Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce 

Yield: 4-6 servings 

4-5 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided 
4 eggs, beaten 
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste 
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 garlic scapes, finely chopped 
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced 
3 scallions, thinly sliced (including green tops)
1 cup sugar snap peas cut into ½-inch pieces
2 celtuce stems, peeled, quartered and cut into ¼ inch slices 
4 cups cooked rice 
4 Tbsp soy sauce 
Freshly ground white and/or black pepper
Toasted sesame oil, for serving.

  1. First, heat a small to medium skillet over medium heat and add 1 tsp of oil. When the pan and oil are hot, add the beaten eggs and ¼ tsp salt. Scramble the eggs until they are cooked through, yet soft. Remove from the heat and set aside. 
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Cut the chicken breasts into thin, bite-sized strips.  Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown.  Stir to turn the chicken pieces over and brown the other side.   
  3. Next, add the garlic scapes, ginger and scallions. Stir the mixture to prevent the ginger and garlic from getting too brown while you continue to stir-fry for 1-2 minutes or until the scallions are soft and the ginger is fragrant.  Next, add the celtuce, sugar snap peas, and pepper.  Continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  4. Add 2 more Tbsp of oil to the pan and tip the pan to distribute the oil evenly. Next, add the rice and continue to move the rice so it is evenly distributed in the pan. Continue to stir-fry the mixture until the rice is thoroughly heated, 3-5 minutes. 
  5. Next, add 4 Tbsp of soy sauce. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a few more minutes. Adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce if you like and additional salt if needed. Stir in the scrambled eggs and serve hot with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil if desired.

Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm