Ginger-Scallion Lettuce Sauce
Ever tried Ginger-Scallion Sauce or Ginger-Scallion Oil at a Chinese restaurant before? It's a pale green flavored oil with lots of bits that gets spooned onto everything from chicken to dumplings. It's flavorful, it's punchy, it's salty and awesome, and it is my firm belief in life that Ginger Scallion Oil, aka GSO, makes everything taste better. Except maybe ice cream, or chocolate, but I won't knock it till I've tried it.
Now it's a bold claim, but I think it's possible that we may have improved Ginger-Scallion Sauce. By adding lettuce, of all things. Why? Because I got lettuce delivered in my Fresh Harvest box that was starting to get old, plus I saw perfectly good lettuce at my local co-op, Sevananda, that was reduced in price because it was a day before expiration date. I'm all about getting more grocers to support this practice, so I bought the lettuce without a plan.
But it wasn't just about using up the lettuce; I wanted to add more heft with neutral flavor to the sauce. One of the (very small) drawbacks of GSO is that the bits of ginger and scallion can be very strongly flavored - the kick of the ginger and oniony tang of the scallions can be intense if you eat too many bits. But if there's not enough of them, the sauce is mostly just flavored oil.
I decided to make some with the surplus lettuce, and it turns out that lettuce adds both a silky, pleasing texture and bulks up the sauce so you get greens in every bite. Plus, it's the perfect use for wilted, bruised, older, or generally not-so-pristine lettuce leaves. As always, slimy or smelly leaves should get composted, but anything on the older side is totally fine to use.
Store in the fridge for as long as you can, and eat it on everything from breakfast eggs to lunchtime quesadilla to dinnertime meat to late night pizza. Use it as a dip for fresh veggies, a sauce for grilled meat, or stir it into noodles. Smear it onto sandwiches or mix it into something creamy and make Creamy Green Dip. Or go classic Chinese and eat it with poached Hainanese Chicken or on top of fresh steamed white rice. Try it on ice cream and report back, okay?
The Rough Recipe
Makes two to three cups of sauce, but the proportions aren't exact. Feel free to adjust based on the amounts of ingredients you've got.
You'll need the following:
- 1 cup neutral oil, such as peanut or canola
- one 3-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled if desired (use the edge of a spoon to peel for the least amount of waste)
- a bunch of scallions or spring onions (both white and green parts, and wilted or limp scallions are totally fine). You could also try this with leeks, garlic scapes, green garlic, or any type of springtime allium.
- 4 cups or so of tightly packed lettuce leaves
- Kosher salt
Mince the ginger and thinly slice the scallions, or put both in a food processor and pulse to process into a chunky paste. Set aside and finely chop the lettuce leaves, or remove from the food processor and pulse the lettuce until minced. Move the ginger-scallion combo and the lettuce near the stove so it's ready to add when the oil is hot.
Put the oil in a large pot ( It will seem unnecessary for such a small amount of oil, but you will be thankful for it later) and heat over high heat until it just begins to smoke. If you've got one, turn on your vent fan or open a window if you can. Keeping your face and hands away from the oil as much as possible, quickly tip the ginger and scallions into the pot, turn off the heat, and stand back while it all bubbles up. Once the whole thing chills out a bit and the oil is no longer bubbling up, add the minced lettuce and stir until everything has been covered and incorporated into the oil. Let it cool a bit, then sprinkle with salt to taste - we like it strongly salty and flavorful.