Monday, June 8, 2009

Recipe: Bok Choy

This past weekend, I was able to visit a small farmer's market near my home. It's a small market with less than 10 vendors but you can often find fresh local veggies, herbs, artisan breads, etc. at a reasonable price. This year, they have a farm run by an Asian family. Upon perusing their goods, I spotted some locally-grown bok choy, an Asian member of the cabbage family. They were small heads, somewhere between "baby bok choy" and full-sized specimins and had fresh cuts on them, indicating that they were harvested that morning. So, I grabbed three and headed out.

For those who don't know what bok choy is, it's a cabbage-like vegetable, tasting something like a cross between broccoli and spinach. It comes in a long, stalky bundle like celery with white stalks and dark green waxy leaves. The white stalks are crunchy, firm, and full of moisture. The leaves are flavorful and hold-up well to just about any cooking method when done right.

So what do you do with bok choy? I didn't know either. After googling around a bit, it appears that the most common preparation involves a soy sauce and fresh ginger sauce. Since I find fresh ginger a bit harsh when not cooked for a long period, I opted to make my own soy-based sauce. It was absolutely delicious. I'll definitely buy more next week if they still have it.

Bok Choy In Garlic Asian Sauce

Note: This recipe owes its roots to a recipe for Broccoli With Garlic and Cashews that is a favorite around my house. Many thanks to the original author for her inspiration.

Approx. 2 pounds of bok choy, smaller heads if possible
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic minced or pressed with a garlic press
olive oil

1) Cut heads of bok choy down the middle. Wash well under water to remove any dirt between layers. Dry well, using a salad spinner if you have one.
2) Cut bok choy cross-wise to separate the leafy green parts from the white or light green stems. Chop all bok choy into bite-sized pieces, keeping the stems separate from the greens.
3) Mix soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl and put aside.
4) Heat a large saute pan over high heat with one tablespoon of olive oil in it. When pan is hot and oil is shimmering, but not smoking, add the bok choy stalks. Cook on high heat, tossing and stirring to prevent burning. When they begin to soften, add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid.
5) Steam bok choy stalks until they are mostly softened. Add bok choy leaves and additional water if needed. Stir, cover, and continue steaming until leaves start to wilt.
6) When leaves are starting to wilt, remove the cover and lower temperature to medium. Drain off any remaining water. Push bok choy to the side to leave an open space in the pan and melt the butter. Once butter is melted, add the sauce mixture. Stir bok choy and sauce well to coat and simmer 1-2 minutes. Serve over flavorful rice such as jasmine or basmati.

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