• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

    Hope you all enjoyed your first week’s produce and are looking forward week 2!  This week I am focusing on Bok Choy, which we are seeing again in plenitude.  Please feel free to share your bok choy recipes and ideas (or any others) by commenting on the blog.  We’d love to get more members involved with Simply Fresh.

    bok choyFeatured Item—Bok Choy

    This week’s featured vegetable is a fun one for me. A few years back, I was one of those people that ran from anything that ended in choi. But I could not be a bigger fan of this special vegetable than I am now. Bok Choy, is a part of the cabbage family and was originally cultivated in China. Hence it also known as Chinese cabbage. While there are different varieties of bok choy, you will find the words Pac, Pak, and Choi referring to the same basic vegetable.

    Bok Choy generally has whitish green stalks protruding from a base and ending in delicate green leaves, although some varieties have green stalks. The entire plant is edible, which is a good thing, because it is delicious, with a taste halfway between celery and cabbage, but much more delicate than that.

    I was surprised to read what a nutritional powerhouse bok choy is compared to many other vegetables. One cup of bok choy affords 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A and 75% of Vitamin C. It is also high in some important B vitamins, as well as Vitamin K, folate, calcium, potassium and manganese. It even offers a good amount of Omega 3’s, and has many antioxidant properties. As such, it is considered an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer food. To top it all off, bok choy is low in calories.

    Bok choy can be enjoyed whole, or with leaves/stalks separated. To clean a whole bok choy, rinse under cold water, bending leaves back gently to expose center to water without breaking the stalks from stem (which holds them together). If using bok choy in cut pieces, separate leaves from stem end and rinse well, then cut (or cut and place in salad spinner to rinse and then spin dry).

    Choose unblemished choy with firm stalks and crisp leaves. Avoid any that are slimy or limp. Bok choy is best stored, unwashed, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

    As a traditional Asian vegetable, bok choy stars in any stir-fry. See the recipe below for a tasty, peanuty stir-fry recipe. It is also great in stir-fried rice dishes, which offers a more complete meal.

    However, there are many more ways than stir-fry to enjoy this special vegetable. Both the stalks and the leaves are great added to salads, as long as the choy is young or otherwise tender. In one cookbook, I found a recipe for a sliced choy and fruit salad (apples, grapes and mandarin oranges) with a poppy seed dressing…sounds like a great new way to try the vegetable.   I imagine it would be even more delicious with fresh sliced strawberries added from the farm (see recipe below for my creation).

    Moving out of the stir-fry arena, both the stems and the leaves are wonderful added at the end of cooking in soups/stews. However, the stalks and leaves will require different cooking rates. You want to cook the stalks just until they are tender (usually a couple of minutes) and the leaves just until they are wilted, about 30 seconds, in simmering liquid.

    Try braising bok choy whole in your favorite broth, wine, or wine/broth combo. I recently braised whole pac choi in a simmering vegetable broth for 2 minutes, or until the stalks were crisp tender. The result was surprisingly delicious for such minimal preparation. You can also braise bok choy in sake and then reduce the resultant braising liquid to make a sauce. Braised bok choy is great alone or served alongside roasted fish or chicken. You can also steam whole or separated choy like you would any other vegetable, tossing it with your favorite vinaigrette or sauce afterwards.

    My favorite ways to cook bok choy are as simple and delicious as braising. One great method is roasting or broiling. If the choy is fairly young and small, you can do it whole. For larger choy you might want to consider halving or even quartering it. Brush or drizzle well with your preferred cooking oil and roast/broil just until the stalks are crisp tender (don’t get too close to the heat source as the leaves are quite tender and burn easily).

    Recently, I discovered the joy of grilled bok choy. It can be tricky to grill this vegetable, depending upon the idiosyncrasies of your grill. For our gas grill, which tends to run uneven and hot, I do the following: Wash and then pat dry whole young pac choi. Brush the stalks and leaves well with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill until hot. Turn down burners to low (or if your grill runs unusually hot, you may want to consider putting the back and front burners on low while the middle burner is turned off). Grill, turning frequently (like every 2 minutes), until the leaves are crisp and browned at the edges (but not black), and stalks are tender (about 10 minutes total).

    The grill gives bok choy an unmistakable and irresistible smoked flavor that is great on its own, and is even more awesome with grilled meats. I love finishing grilled choy with a sprinkle of Parmesan, or drizzling it lightly with toasted sesame oil and sprinkling it with sesame seeds (YUM).

    Here are some fun and unique bok choy preparations I have come across recently in print and online media (click on each to see recipe):

    Ale Braised Bok Choy with English Cheddar

    Pork Dumplings with Chile-Sesame Sauce

    Flounder with Bok Choy, Cilantro and Lime

    Asian Bok Choy Salad with Crunchy Ramen Noodles

    Bok Choy with Sherry and Prosciutto

    Apricot, Bok Choy and Mint Salad

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    This recipe is a great stir fry for those who love a good sauce (or are peanut butter fans). See note below for instructions on adding in meat, if desired.

    If you don’t have a red pepper, consider substituting with another vegetable (or meat) or leaving it out completely.

    Bok Choy and Red Pepper in Peanut Sauce                                Serves 6

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 4 teaspoons peanut oil, divided

    – 3 cloves garlic

    – 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic paste

    – 2 tablespoons tomato paste

    – 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

    – 1 teaspoon sugar

    – 1/4 cup natural peanut butter

    – 1/4 cup hoisin sauce

    – 2 small bunch bok choy

    – 2 small red bell pepper

    METHOD:

    1. In a small saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons peanut oil on medium heat until hot. Add garlic, chili paste and tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes or until tomato paste turns a deep, dark red color. Add chicken broth, sugar, peanut butter and hoisin sauce. Whisk until peanut butter melts and is incorporated into the sauce. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thickened slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
    1. Trim stem end of bok choy to release leaves. Rinse each leaf well to remove dirt. Cut off leaf ends and coarsely chop. Slice stalks into 1/3″ slices, keeping stalks separate from leaves. Seed red pepper and slice into thin slices.
    1. Heat 2 teaspoons peanut oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok on medium-high heat until hot. Add red pepper and stir fry two minutes or until beginning to soften. Add choy stalk slices and stir fry another 2-3 minutes or until tender. Add chopped pac choi leaves and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 1 minute. Add reserved sauce and bring to a boil. Cook 1-2 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency. Add salt if needed (typically only if using no sodium broth).

    Note: There is plenty of sauce in this recipe to allow you to serve it over rice/noodles and/or to add more vegetables or meat (chicken works great). If you wish to add meat, cook it first, remove it from the pan into a bowl, and then proceed with the recipe (to stir-fry the vegetables you will want to add more oil). Add the meat back in to the pan when you add the peanut sauce to the veggies.

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    The strawberries were so ripe today that I knew I needed to serve them immediately. I came up with this delicious salad, which uses bok choy in its raw state. The dressing is divine—slightly sweet, yet tart, lime-y, and faintly coconut-y.

    I used coconut oil in the vinaigrette for its incomparable flavor, but it can be tricky to use in a salad dressing because it solidifies close to room temperature. If you are willing to play with it a bit by getting your other ingredients at room temperature and possible warming it a bit if it separates, you won’t be disappointed. However, if all that seems like too much trouble, try substituting another mild flavored oil for the coconut oil (like avocado oil).

    Bok Choy and Strawberry Salad with Lime-Coconut Vinaigrette      Serves 4-6

     INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 small shallot, minced

    – 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

    – zest of one lime

    – 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar or white vinegar

    – 2 teaspoons raw honey

    – 1 tablespoon coconut water

    – 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

    – 1 medium bok choy

    – 2 cups sliced strawberries

    – 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

    – 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes

    METHOD:

    1.  Because coconut oil solidifies close to room temperature, it is important for all salad ingredients to be room temperature before mixing up the salad

    In a container long enough to contain the handle of a stick blender, place shallot, lime, lime zest, vinegar, honey, coconut water, and coconut oil. Blend until smooth and emulsified (if coconut oil curdles, the mixture is too cold. Place in microwave for a few seconds until it re-melts and then continue with recipe).

    2. Wash bok choy leaves and thinly slice both stems and leaves. Place bok choy in a large bowl with the strawberries. Toss in dressing and almonds to coat. Sprinkle coconut on top and serve immediately

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