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Brassica is a pretty amazing genus of plants. If you like green vegetables (and why wouldn’t you?), at least one species or subspecies of Brassica probably falls somewhere on your top ten list.
Different cultivars have given us broccoli and cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, rapini, and mustard greens. Some lines of breeding that Brassica has gone through have focused on cultivating elaborate edible flowers (think cauliflower and broccoli), some have derived tasty roots (the trusty turnip), and some focus on the flavor of the leaves – including today’s focus, bok choy (also known in some circles as Chinese cabbage; or, to botany nerds, as Brassica rapa chinensis).
In a CSA season, we typically see a fair amount of bok choy arriving in our box, and a fair amount of it in turn ends up being added to stir-fries. I always keep a few small cans of my favorite stir-fry “backup singer” vegetables on the pantry shelf in anticipation of these occasions – some water chestnuts and baby corn – along with the requisite rice.
But sometimes stir-frying every pack of bok choy into submission seems like a surrender. It’s just so easy, so simple, and eventually, so tiresome. Surely I can think of something else to do besides chop everything up, cover it in teriyaki sauce, and call it a day!
So today’s recipe is a refusal to capitulate to the ease (and tedium) of another stir-fry. It also allows me to use up some of the crispy young scallions I got in my CSA box, which is handy, as I’m the only onion eater in my house and I have to find my ways to fit them in where I can!
Bok choy, for its own part, provides all kinds of excellent nutrition that can save you from having to swallow yet another vitamin pill – lots of vitamin C, even more vitamin A, and a smidge of calcium and iron too. And it tastes good! It’s milder than the cabbage it’s so closely related to, but still strongly flavored compared to greens like chard or spinach. Its leaves are also somewhat chewier, more like kale than cabbage – this is not the stuff you want to add to your coleslaw when it’s missing some crunch. It does cook down beautifully into tender bites, though, whether you slice it up for a stir-fry or (as in the case of this recipe) leave it whole.
Sautéed bok choy with sprouted tofu
1 package (6 oz.) sprouted tofu (I love the Wild Wood brand savory baked tofu)
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2 small bunches baby bok choy
1 tablespoon garlic oil
1 bunch young scallions
Pour one tablespoon or so of the sesame oil into a pan and warm it over medium-high heat. While the pan has a chance to heat up, cut the tofu into slices 1/2-inch thick. Add tofu to heated pan and brown thoroughly on all sides. At the end, turn the heat down and dust each side of tofu with paprika.
In another pan, mix one-half to one tablespoon each of garlic and sesame oil. (If you have a small bunch of bok choy, use less; for a bigger bunch, let it fly.) Let oil warm over low to medium heat while you remove your bok choy from the bunch. Cut each stem near the base but leave the leaf and stalk intact – and make sure to wash everything well to remove all those pesky critters. Wash and slice your scallions too, and set those aside in a small bowl for the time being.
Add the bok choy to the sesame and garlic oil pan, and stir occasionally to make sure that all the bok choy gets coated in oil and has a chance to cook: as it wilts, it will take up less space, but at first the stalks on the bottom are going to keep the ones on top from warming up. Don’t let the greens get wilted into oblivion.
You can either add your scallions to the bok choy pan before serving, or you can put the little bowl on the table for everyone to serve themselves, so that both the onion-lovers and onion-haters among you are happy.