Tuesday, May 31

Having Fun With Vegetables: Baby Bok Choy

It occurred to me that once in a while it would be nice to highlight a particular healthful ingredient and give a few examples of how to use it; that way you have a practical starting point to incorporate a new and wholesome food into your routine. Leafy green vegetables are one of the most important elements of a healthy diet, and certainly one of the most sorely lacking elements in the modern American diet. Baby bok choy is a handy leafy green that is super easy to clean, prep, and cook, and it cooks up nice and tender for those who are still getting accustomed to sturdier greens. While it is often associated with Asian cuisine, and does indeed frequently turn up there, you'll also find it popping up more and more on menus in all different contemporary restaurants, so keep an eye out for it and consider sometime swapping the go-to spinach for some baby bok choy. If prepared correctly and not overcooked, it should be tender but not mushy, with flavors of both sweetness and subtle bitterness, and should be a lovely shade of bright green. It is suited very well to Asian inspired sautés, stir fries, and wok dishes, but since you may be familiar with using it or eating it that way already, I thought I'd give you some unexpected alternatives to mix things up a bit. Baby bok choy is one of the most frequently prepared veggies in The World's Tiniest Kitchen, due to it's nutritional content but also its ease and convenience, and I use it as the leafy green in a variety of recipes without feeling the least bit restricted- try these ideas and then have some fun experimenting on your own! Both recipes I have provided here are great for the hot days we are currently experiencing, to fill you up without weighing you down.

(Unfortunately, I do not have photos to accompany these meals, my camera was out of commission, but these are extremely simple and easy meals so you will get the gist.)

French Lentil and Quinoa Mediterranean Pilaf

You will need:

French or "puy" lentils
Olive oil or flaxseed oil
Baby Bok Choy
Sea salt

French lentils, sometimes called "puy lentils", are used for this recipe because they retain their shape when cooked rather than coming apart like other lentils.

Cook french lentils and quinoa separately and cool to room temperature.

(leftover lentils and quinoa from a separate meal are particularly convenient for this recipe- I will usually cook a pot of grains and a pot of beans and then use each in various recipes and meals over the course of 2-3 days, and then it's time to make more. This saves time, money, space, and mental energy because part of the question of what to make is answered for you, and you can just keep trying different things with your building blocks!)

Combine both lentils and quinoa in roughly equal measures in a large bowl. Add shredded carrots, capers, flaxseed or olive oil, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Toss to coat all ingredients, and then season with oregano, dill, and a small amount of sea salt (capers are already very salty), tossing again to distribute herbs. Leave to sit covered to allow flavors to combine.

Then cut each small head of baby bok choi by placing it on a horizontal on the cutting board, cutting off the tip of the bulb end and discarding, and then continuing to make short vertical cuts the rest of the way across so that the greens appear almost shredded. Continue until all baby bok choy is cut (figure about 2 small heads per person, depending on their size, which varies greatly) and submerge all of the chopped bok choy in a large bowl of cool water, moving it around with your hands to thoroughly wash. After washing in the bowl thoroughly, transfer to a colander and rinse thoroughly with new fresh water, discarding the dirty water from the bowl. (Sometimes rinsing well in a colander is enough, but baby bok choy has a tendency to retain dirt and grit from the ground in the little crevices, so better safe than sorry- believe me.) Once clean and rinsed, transfer to a skillet and sprinkled with a few tablespoons of water only. Cover and bring to medium-high heat only for a moment or two to get the skillet steamy, and then turn down to simmer covered on low until the greens wilt but remain bright green and crisp, only several minutes- it cooks very quickly. (This technique is called water sauté and is very useful for preparing leafy greens before use in a variety of recipes; it cuts down on the amount of oil needed, the exposure to heat needed, and produces a tender but vibrant taste. ) If you aren't sure when the baby bok choy is done, err on the side of undercooked, as it is a quickly cooking and will continue to soften once removed from heat. Immediately drain it through a strainer and toss around to cool slightly.

Once slightly cooled but not cold, combine the cooked baby bok choy into the large bowl of other ingredients and toss with tongs to combine and coat all ingredients thoroughly. Taste for seasoning, and add more oregano, dill, lemon juice, olive/flaxseed oil, and capers or sea salt if necessary. Less is more with these last two ingredients- a little goes a long way. This is a delicious one-dish meal for a hearty but cool lunch on a warm day- enjoy!

Tempeh Tacos

You will need:

Plain organic tempeh
Wholegrain corn tortillas (I use Food for Life Sprouted Corn Tortillas, but if you can't find them, use another brand as long as it's made from whole ground yellow corn and not refined corn- and do buy organic, since much corn is genetically modified)
Frozen organic sweet corn
Baby bok choy
Pumpkin seeds
Chili Powder
Unrefined Sesame Oil
Sea salt
Fresh lime (optional)

Cut tempeh into small cubes, and spread out in a skillet along with a small amount of frozen sweet corn (the sweet corn is an accessory in this recipe, not a main ingredient). Pour about half an inch of water into the bottom of the skillet and bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer covered about 8-10 minutes. While simmering, chop onion into small pieces and peel garlic. Next, toast pumpkin seeds in a separate clean dry skillet over low heat until they begin to smell fragrant and turn slightly green-brown, do not toast until dark brown. Set aside. Chop and wash baby bok choy according to method described above, and spread the cut and washed baby bok choy on top of tempeh and corn in the skillet. Make sure there is still a very small amount of water in the bottom of the skillet, which will steam the baby bok choy. Turn the heat briefly higher again to accommodate the cold bok choy, then cover skillet and turn heat back to low for several minutes, just until bok choy looks slightly wilted but still bright green and crisp. Drain all ingredients into colander and toss around to cool, leave to drain thoroughly. Using the same skillet (dry with a cloth first), heat 1 tablespoon unrefined sesame oil over medium-low heat and sauté first onions until translucent and fragrant, adding in garlic part way through until fragrant but not browned. While onions and garlic are cooking, place corn tortillas into the oven on a low temp to heat. Then combine the cooked tempeh, corn, baby bok choi, and toasted pumpkin seeds into the skillet with the cooked onions and garlic over very low heat, and mix to combine all flavors. Season with chili powder and sea salt, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice if desired, and transfer to a large bowl. Remove tortillas from oven once soft and warm, and serve in a stack alongside the bowl of the tempeh and vegetable mixture, filling each soft taco as you go. This is a fun, spicy and flavorful meal that is very filling but won't weigh you down- dig in!

Now that you have two ideas for how to use baby bok choy, go forth and have fun with these and other ideas!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation: erica@wellnessrealized.com

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