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I am sadly less than proficient when it comes to Asian vegetables. You’d think all the time I spent in Asia would have up-ed my skill level (or at least awareness) a bit, wouldn’t you? But alas, during my years there if I thought about food at all, it had to do with how many “weird” things I could eat in order to impress people back in the States. Therefore, while I certainly ate my fair share of traditional Filipino food, I missed out on the finer points of what the vegetables actually were and how they were prepared.
Today, my co-farmer, Ben, alerted me to the fact that we will be harvesting baby bok choi on Friday. As far as Asian vegetables go, I know bok choi is pretty mundane, but even so I wasn’t familiar with it. Like most brassicas, bok choi gets sweeter with the colder weather. Because of all the frosts (not to mention snows) we’ve had this winter, the bok choi leaf I sampled was as sweet as any summer corn I’ve tasted. Sweet and almost lemony but with a definite cabbage-y twang, like a farm girl who can’t quite banish the drawl from her voice. As delicious as it was raw, Ben counseled that they are even better cooked– but not too much. Bok choi, also like other brassicas, gets extremely bitter when over-cooked.
After doing my “new vegetable encounter” Wikipedia search, I learned that in traditional Chinese thought bok choi is a cool vegetable. In order to counter balance the coolness, a warming ingredient is added, such as garlic or ginger. I figured that was as good a place to start as any. That, combined with my first impressions of the raw leaf as having distinct lemony undertones, gave birth to this dish. While I served it with beef, I think it would make a fantastic bed for some fresh fish from the farmer’s market.
Bok Choi with Ginger and Lemon
1 bag bok choi (about 1/3 lb.)
1 TBS butter
1 in piece of ginger, peeled
zest from one lemon
Using a fine grater, grate the ginger and lemon zest; set aside. Cut the ends off the bok choi, wash in cold water, and dry well. In a medium sized pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. When it just barely sizzzles, add the ginger. After a few seconds (when the gingery aroma reaches your nose), add the bok choi and lemon zest. Stir with tongs until its evenly coated in butter, ginger, and zest. Cook until mostly wilted (about a minute). Turn off the heat when most of the leaves are wilted. Continue stirring as the residual heat cooks the rest of the leaves.