Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Going Green

This weekend I accompanied my friend Alex on a mission to stock her pantry with items that would encourage her to cook more. The weather was a lovely and unseasonal 74 degrees and sunny, so we walked from her apartment in the West Village to Asia Market Corp., my favorite shop in Chinatown. This former hole in the wall has expanded and now carries pretty much any specialty ingredient you could ask for. I discovered it a few years ago prior to their expansion after reading an article about specialty shops that cater to some of the city's best chefs. It was teeny tiny and bursting with potential. Now it occupies a much larger space and carries everything from ramen to rose water. So, after grabbing a few essentials to make several easy after work dinners (stir-fry, tofu, noodle soup), we both stocked up on some vegetables, which are always super fresh and super cheap in Chinatown.

I knew that while I was there I had to stock up on some delicious bok choy, one of my favorite Chinese greens. It's in the cabbage family but kind of looks like a combination of mustard greens and celery. It has a nice flavor because the stalks have a mild bitterness (like most greens) but a nice smooth and inherently sweet flavor. I bought three bunches of baby bok choy (for less than 2 dollars!), which is smaller, more tender than the full size, and cooks up incredibly quickly. I always make sure and order some sautéed bok choy when I call for Chinese take-out (nothing is a better match for Cantonese roast duck over rice), and even my mother insists on my making some when she's here. It's really good for you, low in calories, and super easy to make. I made mine really simply with garlic, soy sauce and Sichuan pepper for a bit of heady spice. I usually serve it as a side dish, but this time it was so good I just had to eat the whole thing in one sitting as a main dish (I didn't even have time to make rice). Here's how to make bok choy for yourself:

Bok Choy with Garlic and Sichuan Pepper

3 bunches baby bok choy, washed and separated
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
vegetable oil (about 1 1/2 Tbsp)
2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground with 1 tsp coarse salt

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook bok choy about 2 minutes or until leaves wilt and stems are tender crisp. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat up vegetable oil in a sauté pan or wok. Add garlic and cook a few minutes until just starting to brown, then add bok choy and sauté for another minute. Add 2 Tbsp soy sauce, sesame oil, half of the Sichuan peppercorn mixture and sauté another minute. Remove to serving platter and top with the remaining peppercorn mixture and soy sauce. Enjoy!


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