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I love bok choy. I’ve only come to appreciate the flavor complexity of bok choy in the past year since going to the farmer’s market more often and thusly making more chopped salads with crispy greens. And, oh boy, are these crispy. The flavor profile includes sweet cabbage, earthy and pepper (similar to arugula). Plus you get the bonus of a big dose of vitamins and minerals from the tender leaves —without the hard-to-chew fiber. You’ll see reasons why I love to braise bok choy at the end of this post.
Peter, the owner and founder of Monta Vista Market asked if I would feature Bok Choy this week during my cooking demo at his store. I chose braising as the cooking method because you can go in many directions with the flavors, textures, colors. Braising is a cooking method using dry (sauteing) and wet heat (adding a liquid). Used mostly to cook low-cost not-so-tender meats. The meats are cooked for a long period of time, from 1 to 4 hours or more. AND –lucky for us veggie lovers– braising veggies can be quick, super easy, tasty and with lots of curb appeal.
Here’s a quick overview of my braising method….
- Cook a mirepoix (cook 10 minutes).
- Add flavors and the bok choy (cook 5 minutes).
- Add fresh herbs (cook 1 minute).
- Add fat (cook 1 minute).
Total time can be under 17 minutes for the well-rehearsed home chef.
This method has minimal steps, minimal prep and you can easily change the ingredients. I’ll explain more, below, to carry you through the process, including substitutions, ideas and tips.
Sweet Sour Salty Braised Baby Bok Choy
- 1 small leek (stalk only, save the leaves for another dish)
- 2 celery ribs
- 10 pitted green olives, some whole, some sliced
- 1/4 cup juice from the olives
- 2 bunches baby bok choy
- 1 cup water
- 3 scallions, 1/2-inch wide diagonal slices (bulb, stalk and leaves)
- 1 tbls pomegranate syrup, or 1 tbls tamarind syrup
- 1 tbls oregano water (see photo, below)
- 2 tbls butter
Here’s my braising process….
1. First, I got all my ingredients together. If you don’t have a leek, then use a any of these or combination of: shallots, green onions (bulb, stalk and leaves), a small onion.
2. I washed the leeks and celery, cut them to about 1-inch long pieces, put’m in a food processor until they were small bits, but not broken down all the way to mush.
3. Then I cooked this mixture (the mirepoix) in a skillet, no oil, just using its own moisture, on medium to low heat, stir often until soft. Click here to read more about my ‘dry saute’ method.
4. While the mirepoix was cooking, I washed the bok choy in sudsy veggie wash to help lift and remove dirt, dust, etc. Then I drained the bok choy. I found this wash at Trader Joe’s, it has a lot a foaming action, which seems to work really well at lifting the dirt and dust from in between the stalks. I fanned the leaves in the water, swishing them back and forth. The veggie wash is ‘safe’ — I’m okay with the ingredients– yet don’t want any unusual flavors in my dish so I rinse’m well. Playing with the food like this helps me get to know its structure, nuances, etc. Plus it’s a great time to meditate. The water ought to be cold, yet not too cold that prohibit your hands from enjoying the water.
5. Be sure to stir the mirepoix –and add the olives and juice when the mirepoix starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. If the mirepoix is sticking and scorching then the pan is too hot, and or it needs to be stirred more often.
Idea: instead of the bok choy use Napa cabbage and or savoy cabbage, or broccoli, or fennel bulb.
Normally, I would use pitted green olives, however, I only had whole olives (with the pit!), a mistake in grabbing the wrong jar a while back. Twice in my life I’ve ‘pitted’ olives and vowed to never do it again. It’s so labor intensive that it pulls me away from being creative and puts me into task mode, not a good thing. Hmmm, I saw John Gray give a talk tonight in Palo Alto, he’s promoting his new Venus/Mars book — and now I’m thinking that pitting olives would be a good task for a male, not so good for a female. Eventually, you’ll be able to see a recording of his talk here. He’s a very entertaining, captivating speaker.
Idea: Instead of water, use veggie broth or meat broth or bone broth.
Idea: Don’t have scallions? …then use chopped chives, parsley and or cilantro.
TIP: If you cover the pan you’ll risk the leaves turning brown and having an off-tasting dish. Read more about avoiding brown leaves, here.
Idea: Any concentrated fruit syrup will work for replacing the pomegranate syrup or tamarind paste, even jams and jellies. Come to think of it — apple butter will work, too. The pomegranate and tamarind is used for its tart-sour flavor, substitutions would be: lemon juice, rhubarb, dried cherries, molasses, miso. The oregano water is worth getting, its flavor is amazing – a deep sweet aged grassy peppery herbaceous flavor. You’ll find it at Indian, Persian, international markets; Whole Foods Market, too. It’s generally right next to the orange blossom water, rose water, pomegranate syrup and tamarind paste. All of which, btw, are worthy of putting in your pantry.
The butter with the syrup mixture is … is… is… superb. Ya just can’t go wrong with butter mixed with sweet and sour, ….think maple syrup, butter and strawberries on pancakes. ‘Nuf said.
Idea: Try raw (unrefined) coconut oil instead of the butter. The tropical flavor gives a wonderful exotic-ness to the dish and will go well with the tamarind.
Tip: I add the fat at the end of cooking for two reasons… one: to use less fat; and two: to minimize cooking the fat (fats oxidize easily with heat, not good, lots of published research on this).
NOTE: As a therapeutic chef I look for ways to minimize harmful affects of cooking — and the maillard reaction and fond are two that I avoid when cooking for those who have a health challenge. Both of these flavoring techniques are coveted by most chefs (including me) for both visual appeal and taste satisfaction. So, I’ve challenged myself to come up with ways in which to create the look of browned food and to create the umami flavor in my food. You’ll be able to read more about this in my upcoming book: The Bulletproof Upgraded Chef (available online, soon!).
Bok choy is one of my favorite veggies to braise because…
- the stems and leaves hold its shape after cooking, and maintains quite a bit of its crunchiness.
- the yummy watery juiciness of the bok choy is released during cooking and permeates the dish.
- AND the stems, after releasing its juices will easily absorb liquids, including other flavors that are in the braising liquid.
- it inherently has an umami flavor (peppery and earthy tones) and so it is a good choice for those of us who are avoiding black pepper, garlic, most onions and browned foods.
- lastly, I love’m raw, so I enjoy munching’m while I’m prepping the dish.
- I’ll prolly think of more reasons and will write’m here for you when they come to me.
I do cooking demos at the store as well as write the weekly recipes. Here’s more info about the demos…
Walk with me, let’s travel around the store to pick out the ingredients for my cooking demo. I’ll make a new dish each hour, so drop in at the top of the hour to help me create the next dish that I make. Come taste my improv (no recipe) creations. You’ll be inspired, you’ll get info, you’ll get deals!
We’ll select any thing that you are interested in — fresh produce as well as dry goods from the shelves, new arrivals and on-sale items. Each demo will be unique, inspired by those who are with me.
LEARN TIPS and TRICKS — You’ll learn cooking tips and tricks for flavor structure, speed cooking, batch cooking, and much more. Get answers to your cooking and health questions. See a chef’s mind at work, learn to think the way I do when I put together ingredients to make a tasty dish.
I’ll cover cooking methods, kitchen alchemy, raw foods, cooked foods, most dishes will be vegan and vegetarian.
MY COOKING DEMO SCHEDULE (no cost)
- Sunday, June 10; 1-4 pm (at the Cupertino’s Farmer’s Market, 11am to 12:30pm)
- Sunday, July 22; 1-4pm (at the Cupertino’s Farmer’s Market, 11am to 12:30pm)
- Saturday, August 11; 1-4pm
- Sunday, September 9; 1-4pm (at the Cupertino’s Farmer’s Market, 11am to 12:30pm)
- Saturday, October 27; 1-4pm
- Saturday, November 10; 1-4pm
- Sunday, December 9; 1-4pm (at the Cupertino’s Farmer’s Market, 11am to 12:30pm)
Monta Vista Market location
Monta Vista Market
21666 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino CA 95014
Store Phone: 408-777-0330
Store E-mail: email@example.com
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