Using your farmers’ market bok choy
At the Farmers’ market, crisp white stalks topped by loose, dark green leaves call out to me: Bok choi or Pac choy. There are many alternate spellings…
In the Orient, there are many choys (Brassica rapa var. chinesis). These are mild cabbage-type plants that don’t make a tight head the way European cabbages do.
Bok Choy and Pac Choi have been cultivated in China since the 5th century A.D. and came to the U.S. only a century ago. They quickly grew in popularity because, compared to European cabbages, Oriental varieties are sweeter and more delicate. They cook quickly, without the unpleasant odor cabbage emits while boiling. They’re also more digestible, with fewer gaseous effects.
Baby Bok Choy is even tenderer and more subtly flavored, so it’s great raw in salads. It should be harvested when very young (about a month after planting, just 6-8 inches tall). When fully mature, the plants grow about 18 inches in height.
Like other cruciferous vegetables, choys contain sulforaphane, which stimulates cancer-protecting enzymes. They are great non-dairy sources of bone-building calcium and are rich in the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, and folic acid. The dark-green leaves are rich in antioxidants and minerals and good in both raw and cooked dishes.
Look for fresh, crisp leaves that show no signs of wilting, yellowing or browning. Bok choy will only stay fresh for a few days, so eat it quickly. Store in the refrigerator. When ready to use, cut the bottom of the stem, then wash under running water to remove the sand that tends to accumulate at the bottom.
Bok Choy can replace cabbage, spinach or chard in most recipes. It is good grilled, boiled, steamed, sauteed, stir-fried and raw. Sauteed or steamed and served with a sauce it makes a great side dish. Season with garlic and a little soy sauce or tamari. Like it hot? Add red pepper flakes and peanut butter.
The bright, white stems are crunchy and great raw, with a mild flavor. Use them to replace celery and add crispness to salads. Combine with lettuce and your favorite dressing — or use as a garnish. Add to coleslaw with thinly sliced peppers or carrots, or mix with fruit and a sweet-sour dressing in an Asian slaw.
The green leaves are good in frittatas, omelets, quiche and other egg dishes. You can mix chopped, steamed Bok Choy with cooked pasta or rice, seasoned with garlic, olive oil or butter, and lemon juice. You can also steam the large leaves and use instead of cabbage to wrap grain, vegetables or meat as you would stuffed cabbage.
Both stems and leaves add flavor and crunch to Asian dishes. For a Thai-style soup, add chopped bok choy during the last few minutes of cooking time to a meat broth with some pasta, a little soy sauce and other vegetables.
For Oriental stir-fries, cut in strips and combine with meat or tofu and other vegetables, season with garlic and ginger, and saut in a wok or skillet only until crisp-tender. It cooks quickly, so it’s one of the last ingredients to add to a stir-fry dish. When stir-fried for just 3-4 minutes, the leaves become tender but remain bright green and the white stem retains its crispness. Like most leafy greens, it reduces in volume as it cooks.
This week (July 31 – August 7) is Farmers’ Market Week. Celebrate by visiting your farmers’ market — and bring home some bok choy!
Side Dish Bok Choy
4 ounces chopped mushrooms (portabella or shitake)
A little olive oil for the pan (a tablespoon or less)
2 or 3 garlic scapes, or 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch bok choy
Wash and chop the carrot; slice the mushrooms.
Heat oil in a large skillet with a tight lid.
Add carrot and mushrooms, cover, lower heat and cook 5 to 7 minutes. Use this time to wash and slice the bok choi and garlic scapes or garlic.
Add bok choy and scapes or garlic to skillet; stir. Cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes.
Season with a little soy sauce, and serve.
Serves 4 as a side dish.
Option: Stir this into a bowl of cooked pasta, rice (or another grain, like millet or barley) for a main dish. Add cooked diced meat or tofu or some edamame for protein to make a meal.
Bok Choy Slaw
1 Tablespoon sesame oil or olive oil
1 Tablespoon Tamari or Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons lime juice, lemon juice, or rice vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon Tahini paste or peanut butter (optional)
1 or 2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
1 or 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional – if you like it spicy)
2 bunches baby bok choy or 1 bunch bok choy
2 to 4 baby carrots
1 or 2 cucumbers
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, fresh parsley or fresh cilantro
Optional: shredded cooked chicken, garbanzo beans or edamame
Directions for the dressing:
Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well.
Directions for the salad:
Thinly slice the bok choy stalks and leaves. Peel cucumber (if tough-skinned) and slice thin. Slice or shred the carrots. Slice the scallions and mint leaves. Combine in salad bowl.
Pour dressing over, and toss to coat.
Garnish each serving with optional protein ingredients, if using.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.