Tuesday, May 18, 2010

bok choy for a change

Here's the bad news: our camera lens broke. This means that my photos are going to be even more mediocre than usual for the next little while.

But here's the good news: I found something different to do with baby bok choy.

I'd seen the stuff at the farmers market for several weeks running, and it seemed like it might make a good change from the endless bunches of chard and kale we've been eating (that's how you can tell you live in Seattle: your idea of a welcome change from greens is...a different kind of greens). But all I could think of to do with it was to make stir-fry with garlic sauce. Which, don't get me wrong, is delicious, but I wanted something...different.

This recipe fits the bill--roast the cabbage briefly in a very hot oven, then douse it in lemon juice and lemon zest. It's a kind of Marco Polo of a recipe, transporting bok choy from Asia to the Mediterranean.

The original recipe, from Eating Well, is a side dish, but I wanted to make it into a main (translation: I am lazy, and prefer one-dish meals). I glanced at the package of soba noodles sitting in a canister on the counter but initially dismissed them as a possibility--I wanted to keep the dish in the Western Hemisphere. Because I wanted something different. Then I remembered that Italy also has a buckwheat pasta tradition--pizzoccheri, or buckwheat noodles that are typically combined with greens and cheese. Bingo. We have a winner: a quick spring supper that nods to the flavors of a famous peasant dish.

Making this dinner also made me think about the sometimes contradictory and inconsistent rules I have about cooking and eating local food. For example, if a food grows here but isn't in season (tomatoes), I won't buy it. But if a food doesn't grow here at all (lemons), I'll freely use it any time of year. Except that doesn't even quite cover it. I buy bananas nearly every week (though mostly for the sake of my Monkey)--but I'd never buy a pineapple. That totally doesn't make sense, does it? This kind of thing is exactly why I say this blog is about cooking local "in theory and practice"--sometimes there's quite a gap between the two.

How about you--do you have rules, informal or strict, logical or wildly inconsistent, about buying local produce?

Buckwheat Noodles with Lemony Roasted Bok Choy
Adapted from EatingWell

The original recipe calls for tarragon, which I left out because I didn't have it on hand. I think I might add about a teaspoon of fresh thyme next time.
A large bunch of baby bok choy
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
Freshly grated zest of about 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon mirin, or sherry with a pinch of sugar
Ground black pepper
About 6 oz. dried soba noodles
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
Red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese
Put a large saucepan of water on to boil for the pasta. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 450 F.
While you wait for things to heat up, wash the bok choy, trim the ends, and quarter each head lengthwise. (Really you will probably end up with a lot of loose leaves--that's okay.)
Put 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large baking dish. Peel a garlic clove and press it into the dish. Add about 1/4 tsp salt. Add the bok choy and toss to coat.

Meanwhile, add the soba noodles to the boiling water. They'll need to cook for about 6 to 8 minutes.

Aim to put the bok choy in the oven, on the lowest rack, a minute or two after you begin cooking the noodles. Roast for about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the bok choy is wilted but still a little crisp.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, mirin or sherry, and black pepper.

Drain the soba noodles and rinse them with cold water.

Take the bok choy out of the oven and pour the dressing over it.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in the pan you cooked the noodles in. Add a little salt, some red pepper flakes, and the other clove of garlic, pressed. Stir around for a minute or so. Put the noodles back in the pan and toss around a bit. Add a little water to prevent the noodles from sticking if you need to.

To serve, put some noodles in a bowl, top with some of the bok choy (tongs are your friend in both cases), and grate a bunch of Parmesan cheese over the whole mess.

Serves 2.


anotheryarn said...

Oh that sounds good. Hopefully i'll remember it next time I pick up some bok choy. I'm also enjoying bok choy in my version of pad thai. Which brings me to my local stance, it is rather similar to yours, I try very hard not to buy things that grow here out of season, but think nothing of buying lemons or limes and don't extend my local-leanings to shelf-stable pantry goods like flours or vinegar or oil (though I do look, I don't spend 3xs as much for such things if I find them).

Jenny said...

Hi Sarah,
Our friend Sara B. pointed me to your blog awhile back. We actually met a long time ago back when I lived in Seattle. I don't know if you remember me. Anyway, I've been reading, and I like it! I have some mustard greens that need to be cooked tomorrow or they'll go bad, so I'm thinking a mustard green version of this dish is in order. Regarding buying local, I try not to set myself up for failure by making rules. I just do the best I reasonably can. Really my aim is to get whatever tastes good, and often the local product is freshest and best.

EQ said...

Andrew cooks bok choy and other Asian greens with brine shrimp (yes, sea monkeys). I don't know whether brine shrimp fit into your vegetarianism, but they add a wonderful, salty, slightly meaty flavor to greens.

Sarah said...

anotheryarn--I'm relieved to know I'm not alone in my funny rules! I don't know if you're a fellow Seattleite, but I've noticed a source of local grains available from Bluebird Grain Farm at several farmers markets recently--I've been meaning to try them out.

Jenny--thanks for coming by! Sara pointed my at your blog too and I'm loving it.

EQ--mmm, sea monkeys. You're right, that probably wouldn't fly in my kitchen, but it sounds really tasty!