Sunday, January 30, 2011

Roasted Bok Choi

This recipe, like so many great dishes throughout history, had its genesis in one crystal-clear beacon of inspiration: Some food was about to go bad.

In this case, that food was a head of bok choi, which I bought last week and failed to use. I wanted to try roasting it, because the oven tends to be more forgiving to vegetables that have passed their prime, much like dim lighting with humans.

I figured it would go great with the pork dumplings I made a big batch of and froze a few weeks ago. You can plop these right from the freezer into a steamer over boiling water, and they cook in about 10 minutes, so they are awesome to have handy.

Bok choi has stems that are much thicker, and thus take longer to cook, than its green ends. So I debated whether to add everything to the pan at once, or start with the stems and add the greens later. I Googled “roasted bok choi,” but every recipe that came up was for baby bok choi, which have far slenderer stems (hence the name, duh), so I wasn’t sure whether the directions would apply.

Being hungry and impatient, I opted to wing it. I decided I would cook everything together but keep the greens under the stems so they would retain their moisture.

Having preheated the oven to 450°, I mixed in a square baking dish (brownie-pan-size):

  • A splash of soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 TSP Dijon mustard (you could use other kinds or skip it)
  • A splash of chicken stock (optional)
  • A splash of hot sauce (and by “splash” I mean “packet from the Chinese restaurant,” but you can source your ingredients however you like—or just leave this out for wussier palates)
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • (Some minced ginger would’ve been a good addition, but I didn’t have any.)
  • A pinch of coarse salt (be sparing, because soy sauce is so salty)
  • 1 TBSP olive oil

    Note: When I say “splash,” I’m usually all for erring on the generous side. But since bok choi has a high water content, it really absorbed all these flavors—the lemon juice in particular—so I’d be conservative with seasonings here to retain some of the crisp flavor of the vegetable.

    I chopped a bunch of bok choi in half lengthwise, then chopped through the base so the bottom halves/white stems came apart.

    I tossed the bok choi in the liquid mix, then arranged the greens on the bottom of the pan with the white parts on top, curved (outer) side up to tent moisture and steam the greens.

    I cooked this for maybe 30 minutes, and as I said, it had a TON of flavor. The roasting gave the bok choi a rich and complex taste, and the warming, filling quality you want from a winter dish—a rare overlap with light and healthy.

    This green was indeed great with the dumplings, but would go equally well with grilled steak or salmon. And cold leftovers would make a nice salad with toasted walnuts and thin-sliced red onion, plus maybe sliced steak or flaked salmon if you made it with one of those mains and have leftovers.

    This concludes our token healthy vegetable recipe. Coming up: We resume our regularly scheduled Winter Carbopalooza!

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