Mung Bean Pasta

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I have been trying to use my cookbooks more often. My effort has paid off with a lot of new knowledge about ingredients and some great go-to recipes that I never knew I always had, sitting right there on the bookcase in my kitchen. One thing that I was surprised to learn was how healthy mung beans are for you. Featured in my new favorite recipe for Pad Thai from Terry Walters’ Clean Food cookbook, mung bean sprouts are surprisingly nutritious. So when I saw Mung Bean Fettuccine in the grocery store, I had to give it a try.

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The package boasts an extremely high protein and fiber content as well as a high iron content, and states that the pasta is a great gluten-free alternative to wheat pasta. I am not gluten-free. In fact I think gluten is one of my favorite foods, however I am always looking for tasty protein sources so I had to check it out. Mung beans, which are low in cholesterol and high in soluble dietary fibers, can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Until recently, mung beans had only entered our household to fill Kyle’s iron palm training bag for Wing Chun (Kung Fu), so it was a pretty big deal to start tossing mung bean sprouts in salads and stir-fry dishes. Experimenting with the fresh, crunchy sprouts was fun, but those beady green beans were a little scary, so it took us awhile to take the next step. Opening this bag of wavy green noodles was intimidating, but we were willing to give it a go in the name of science.

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After cooking and rinsing the noodles, I tasted them plain, and they weren’t too bad. I have to be honest though, they do taste a little… grassy? Because they are naturally chewier than regular pasta, it was pretty easy to get them al dente. However, I thought they really needed some flavor (besides “health food” flavor), so I mixed them with sauteed asparagus and baby bok choy, a soy dressing, and toasted sesame seeds. A drizzle of chili sauce made the meal complete.

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I thought this salad would work well either hot or cold, but I definitely preferred it hot. The noodles were so chewy after being chilled that I had a hard time getting through half of a serving before feeling full. I guess that could be a good thing? It felt weird to me, so I reheated them with a few minutes in the microwave and a generous portion of sambal. Kyle enjoyed the dish both hot and cold, so I guess you will have to decide for yourself!

The flavor combination was very fresh and springy, and versatile enough to work with any type of grain, so I recommend that you try it out even if you substitute a different kind of pasta or rice for the mung bean fettuccine. We are now firmly in the spring season, so break out that bright green asparagus and your favorite set of chopsticks and chow down!

Sesame Mung Bean Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

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Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. dry mung bean fettuccine
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil, divided (2+1)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 baby bok choy
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup liquid aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili sauce (sriracha or similar)
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and set aside.
  2. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces and roughly chop baby bok choy, discarding the ends. Thinly slice the green onions.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 1 minute. Add bok choy and asparagus and saute until tender and bright green, about 3 minutes.
  4. To the vegetables, add garlic and saute for another minute.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the liquid aminos (or soy sauce), brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, and chili sauce.
  6. Add pasta and sauce to the pan with the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook until heated throughout. Add toasted sesame seeds and serve while hot.

Farmers’ Market Haul 05.26.12

Although I got to walk around a bit at the farmers’ market this week, Kyle did most of the shopping again. I was too busy shopping for the SOJ Market Chef Demo to pick up everything we needed at home. Check out recaps of the demonstrations on my Market Chef page. We jam-packed this week’s demo time with a ton of dishes and samples! Richmond market shoppers really benefited from the abundance of colorful, delicious produce this week. I chatted with visitors to the demo tent and even met a blog reader who stopped by to say hello (hi Alex!). While I socialized and helped out, Kyle got some great loot this week. I think he’s really getting the hang of this!

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This week at the market and into my kitchen:

  • Kale
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Beets
  • Asparagus
  • Red potatoes
  • Red spring onions
  • Bombolini black pepper linguine

I used the kale and onions that very night when we hosted Adrienne from hippie itch and her husband for dinner. On the menu: dragon bowls! I set up a create-your-own-bowl bar, just like a salad bar or burrito bar, and I think it worked out pretty well.

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We had so many ingredients and toppings to choose from:

  • steamed brown rice
  • baked five spice tofu
  • braised kale with rice wine vinegar, sautéed onions and fresh ginger
  • stir fried broccoli slaw and baby carrots
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • crushed wasabi peas
  • tiger sauce
  • sriracha
  • hoisin sauce
  • soy sauce
  • fresh cilantro

We ate outside on the back porch and enjoyed a few craft beers while we chatted. It was the perfect way to relax after running around at the market and on errands all day. Saturday Success!

Discovering Daikon: Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches

In my latest (mis)adventure, I took on this big beautiful root.

From the Japanese words for “big” (dai) and “root” (kon), daikon radish is an interesting ingredient. I had not used it before but I had eaten it in restaurants and seen it in the grocery store, so I decided to give it a try. I love carrots and parsnips, and daikon looks like a giant white one of those, so I thought it would be a big win.

Spoiler alert: It’s not really like a big white carrot. If you’re looking for a big white carrot, stick to the parsnip. Daikon is really more like a big stinky radish.

I decided to make some quick pickled carrot and daikon for banh mi sandwiches. I have wanted to do a veggie redux on these for awhile, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone, er, root.

I used a few different recipes to develop my own twist on the vegetarian banh mi sandwich. In case you aren’t familiar with it, banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich consisting of grilled, fried or roasted meat and a variety of vegetables or condiments, on a thick crispy baguette. While the sandwich is available in many varieties in several different countries, most of the banh mi I have had have been very spicy. I set out to do a vegetarian version that would give the original a run for its money.

So, let’s get back to my not-so-secret ingredient: diakon. I washed and cut the daikon, in thick matchsticks for this recipe, and then had a taste. I always try to taste a new ingredient raw so that I can understand it better. The daikon was wet and crunchy like a crisp apple, and it had a bitter mustardy taste with a hint of bright spicy pepper. It reminded me of a very mild watered down horseradish. I did a little research, as I always do, and found that daikon is very low in calories and moderately high in vitamin C. From a nutrition standpoint, this vegetable is not at all bad for you, but isn’t incredibly good for you either. I consider it to be almost nutritionally neutral. So I pickled it, of course.

I also marinated and pan fried some tofu, and while the tofu cooked and the carrots and daikon chilled, I prepared the rest of my sandwich ingredients.

Cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeño.

Sriracha mayo.

All that was left to do was toast some bread and assemble the sandwiches. They turned out to be spicy, crunchy, and absolutely delicious. These have a great balance of texture and flavor, and I would love to serve them to guests sometime soon. My only word of warning is to watch the amount of pickled daikon you make. After a day or two in the refrigerator, that stuff gets pungent and it won’t be bad but you won’t want to go near it. I suppose that’s due to its cruciferous nature. Whatever it is, take note. You have been warned.

Vegetarian Banh Mi Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrot
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut daikon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 French bread sub rolls, or one large baguette, cut into four smaller loaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large cucumber, matchstick-cut
  • 6 Tablespoons mayonnaise or vegannaise
  • 1 Tablespoon sriracha chili sauce

Preparation:

  1. Cut tofu crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices. Press tofu if you have not already done so, to squeeze out all of the water.
  2. Combine soy sauce and ginger in a square baking dish. Arrange tofu slices in a single layer in soy mixture. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning once.
  3. Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add carrot, daikon, black pepper, and white onion; toss to combine. Let stand 30 minutes in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally. Drain daikon mixture in a colander and pat dry.
  4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove tofu from marinade; discard marinade. Pat tofu slices dry with paper towels. Add tofu slices to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden.
  5. Preheat broiler. Cut bread in half lengthwise. Open halves, laying bread cut side up on a baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
  6. Combine mayo and sriracha in a small bowl. Spread mayo on one side of each loaf of bread.
  7. Place tofu slices on bottom half of bread; top with daikon mixture, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeño slices. Top with other half of bread. Add more sriracha as needed.

Summer Solstice Meal

It’s officially the first day of summer!

I celebrated last night with a delicious summery meal. I made corn on the cob for the first time this year, and if the season wasn’t blatantly obvious by the looks of the main plate, it certainly was evident in the accoutrements.

You can take the girl out of Maryland. . .

I served up a Thai mock chicken salad over a bed of arugula, corn on the cob, and raw sliced kohlrabi. Regarding the previous photo, it is my firm belief that the only way to have sweet corn is on the cob, with butter and Old Bay seasoning. And while you’re salivating over that, might I add how excited I am that it is a seasonally appropriate time for a nice crisp white ale?

This chicken salad was a hit. I planned on having leftovers for sandwiches – I didn’t. It turns out that Kyle is a Thai chicken salad fiend! He suggested, between mouthfuls, that we call this “Trickin’ Salad” because it’s like chicken but it’s a trick – as there is no real meat in this salad. Har har har.

I love it when an original recipe is a home run on the first try.

Thai “Chicken” (or Trickin’) (or Mighty Ass-Kickin’) Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (4 pieces) Quorn Naked Chik’n Cutlets
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 cup veganaise
  • 1 Tbsp light sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lightly salted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper or crushed red pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Cook the Naked Chik’n cutlets according to package directions. I chose to microwave mine with a few tablespoons of water, covered, for about two minutes.
  2. While the cutlets are warming up, dice the celery and carrot.
  3. Chop the cutlets into small cubes, or tear them for a more rustic texture.This yields about 2 cups of “chicken”.
  4. Combine the “chicken,” celery and carrots in a medium sized bowl. Add the veganaise, soy sauce, and vinegar. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour the peanuts into a small zip-lock bag and crush them by pounding them repeatedly with the bottom of a can or jar until they are smashed into a crumbly texture. Add the peanuts to the salad.
  6. Stir in peanuts and pepper.
  7. Chill for about an hour before serving.

Serve the Thai “Chicken” Salad over arugula or spinach, in sandwiches or wraps, or rolled up in large leaves of romaine for a crunchy summer lettuce wrap. The possibilities are endless!

What will you do to celebrate the longest day of the year and the official kickoff to summer?

Vegetable Dumplings Part II

In my last post I discussed my first experience making vegetable dumplings.

Here’s the post.

Here’s the recipe.

We’ll call that the trial run. Now, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event.

Hot and Sour Vegetable Won Ton Soup!

To make things even more interesting, I created this dish as the prelude to a meal that featured all dishes I had never made before, and I made them without recipes. Crazy! That’s right, despite being a meticulous planner in general, I pulled this one off on the fly. I must have been drunk or something. Whatever it was that got me into this Top Chef elimination challenge mood, it was delicious.

I have to be honest, I am kind of proud of myself. I experiment and create recipes all the time, but to turn a few random ideas into a three-part meal with no cookbooks, internet, or backup plan, it felt like I was doing a trapeze routine without a safety net. And I didn’t fall!

How'd that paw get there? Izzie must have been checking out the fare.

Unfortunately I did not write down any recipes, but I think I can tell you how to make the soup. You might just have to figure out the measurements on the fly until I can recreate this dish with a pen and paper nearby. Now without further ado, the meal. We started with the hot and sour vegetable won ton soup and then we enjoyed spicy baked tempeh over a bed of sesame ginger slaw.

So you want to know how to make the soup, huh? Well here’s a story about the soup but you really can’t call it a recipe. Here’s how it all went down.

First, start with a bag of broccoli slaw, like this one. This is going to be the filling for your dumplings. Heat a little oil in a pan and when it’s hot, add the broccoli slaw (not the whole bag, just enough to make as many dumplings as you need) and cook over medium heat until tender. Meanwhile, whisk a little cornstarch (1 teaspoons?) into some soy sauce (1/8 cup?). Add to the veggies and cook until sauce thickens, a few minutes. Ta-da! Filling.

When the veggies have cooked and cooled a bit, open a package of won ton wrappers like these. Follow the package instructions to fill and fold the won tons. I used about a teaspoon of filling per wrapper and then folded each in half into a triangle, sealing all of the edges, and then folded the two longer ends together so that the side of the triangle with the original fold was bent in half. This method keeps the won tons together better. Make as many dumplings as you think you will need in your soup.

Now for the soup part. Heat vegetable broth in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add black pepper and spices as you see fit. When the broth starts to boil, add the dumplings to the soup. They will cook in less than 5 minutes. While the dumplings cook, add the following ingredients to taste: soy sauce, sriracha chili sauce, rice wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper if needed. That’s it!

The best part about this soup is when you cut into the dumplings with your spoon, the filling spills out into the soup. You can’t help but to fill the broth with tasty shredded vegetables, which enhances the flavor and texture of the soup. It is seriously fun to eat!

Because of this meal, I have decided to “wing it” a lot more often. But next time I promise I’ll write down the recipe, so you won’t have to “wing it” too.

Vegetable Dumplings

My friends laughed out loud. My own parents declared me insane. Kyle’s jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide as he said… “awwwesome.”

I had decided that I was going to create homemade dumplings and there was no convincing me otherwise. I thought that making veggie dumplings was going to be the most quaint and wonderful thing. . . until I actually made them. One by one, I placed a minuscule amount of filling in the center of a tiny won ton wrapper and then, one by one, I sealed and pinched them together. They were difficult, delicate, and nearly bored me to tears. And then one by one, they started to fall apart.

No worries, this is not a sad tale. There is a light at the end of this tunnel of noodle monotony, because they did, in fact, work out. On more than one occasion, I successfully made delicious dumplings. All I’m saying is, it takes some practice. I present to you the first time (and second time) I made dumplings.

Spinach and Tofu Dumplings

According to my browser, I first bookmarked this recipe from Food & Wine at 2:00 PM on January 21, 2008. I have wanted to make homemade dumplings for three years! A few weeks ago, I went for it. It was pretty easy to make the filling, but folding the dumplings proved challenging.

I followed the directions for sealing the dumplings, but even with water it was difficult to get the edges to stick together. I think I also overstuffed the first round of dumplings, so some of the edges tore when I folded them. I think the main reason I was having trouble was that the dice on the tofu was too large, and the cubes were a tough shape to fit into the miniature wrappers. About halfway through, I decided to mash the tofu into the spinach filling, which made things a lot easier.

When all the dumplings were stuffed and sealed, I popped them into a large pot of boiling water, and then removed them with a slotted spoon to a colander, and finally to a wax paper lined baking sheet. A little messy, but not too bad, right?

Unfortunately, not all of the dumplings made it.

But man did they taste good cold, with a little soy sauce, over a salad the next day. As for the hot dumplings that didn’t fall apart, I served them with TJ’s Gyoza Dipping Sauce as an appetizer before stir-fry.

So what happened to the dumplings that exploded in the pot?

This.

Not a pretty sight, but they did serve as inspiration for my next attempt at dumplings: hot and sour vegetable won ton soup.

Recipe coming soon!

Where Oh Where Has My Little Blog Gone?

Whew, I’ve never taken such a long break from blogging before.

Are you there readers? It’s me, Lauren.

Truth is, I have been so busy with work obligations (if you can call happy hour an obligation, which I think you can when you’re brand new and trying to meet people), family visits, and doing fun things with fabulous people (Kyle! Jess! Carissa! Melissa! Bridget! – I’m talking about you!), I just haven’t sat down at the computer at all.

OK that is a lie. I have sat down at the computer but only to plan our spring and summer vacations. And I have had free time but I got so wrapped up in a few books that I haven’t done much reading on the web. Those personal reader things are cool, and I love blogs as much as the next person (probably more so) but they can never replace the feeling of having a 15-year-old copy of a treasured book in your hands while curled up in a sunny corner on a cold day.

From the very beginning, just seven months ago, I promised myself that I would never let blogging about my life get in the way of living my life. For the last three weeks, I have had a hard time fitting it in, so posts have been sparse. That’s the bad news. The good news is that my camera never rested during those three weeks, and I never stopped challenging myself with new ingredients and preparations. So I have a whole lot of posts in me, ready to come out.

Here is a taste of what I’ve been doing while taking a sabbatical from my laptop.

Making Don’t-Miss-the-Meat Vegetarian Chili during the NFL playoffs

Discovering a few new favorite bottles

Making Kitchen Sink Curry

Participating in NYC Restaurant Week in a post-storm winter wonderland

Recreating a local brunch favorite at home

Having brunch in Park Slope with friends

Trying my hand at homemade dumplings for the first time

Look out for all the juicy details soon! Hopefully sooner rather than later, because a quiet corner in a busy coffee shop, with no one for company but my laptop and a cappuccino, sounds perfectly delicious.

Night of the Living Wok

Today I broke out my brand new non-stick wok from Ikea.

The first wok I had ended up in the garbage can about two years ago and was only used twice. I never replaced it because I completely lacked the confidence to try woking again. That wok had died a slow horrible death, and I didn’t want to think about it. See. . . the first time I woked, it turned out okay. I seasoned the pan according to the manufacturer’s instructions and I cooked a stir-fry a few days later, and it turned out just fine. I cleaned the wok, once again according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and something went wrong.

The next time I cooked in it, the seasoning must have come off and everything in the pan smoked and burned. I hastily removed the wok from the burner and hot oil leapt out of the pan and onto my arm. I still have the scar. After my shock and anger at the trauma had subsided, I discarded the burned food and let the pan cool before rinsing it in warm water with a light detergent. I thought I might try again, so I carefully dried off the wok and set it on the counter.

My takeout arrived (when you try new things in the kitchen as often as I do, you learn to program a few takeout places into your speed dial). The next night I noticed that there were rust spots in the wok. I must not have dried it completely. Into the garbage can it went. 😦

And then I saw this non-stick wok at Ikea for $5!

Non-stick = no need to season the pan, or burn your veggies, or burn your arm with hot oil while attempting to save said burned veggies.

This evening I was brave enough to use it for stir-fried tofu and veggies. It was like my old wok had come back from the dead, but now it was stronger and it meant business. I liked it.

Heat oil in the wok until hot and smoking. Add tofu.

So far so good.

Using bamboo utensils, move the tofu around the pan until it is almost browned on all sides. Remove the tofu from the wok. Add more oil if needed and add fresh vegetables to the pan. Employ the same method to cook the vegetables.

Please excuse the dirty stove. I graduated from the “if you didn’t make a mess, you didn’t work hard enough” school of cooking.

When the veggies are cooked, return the tofu to the pan. Ooh eee ooh. Killer tofu.

Add stir-fry sauce to coat (bottled or homemade) and cook for another minute until heated through. Toss with noodles or serve over rice.

Late-night, one-pot, home-made, take-out MAGIC.

I am so glad I have gotten over that fear. This $5 wok is my new best friend. (Sorry Kyle and Melissa… you’re still at the top of my list. Right below my wok.)

Tempeh Celebration

I have been a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years and I have never prepared tempeh. Tofu is a staple in my refrigerator, and beans are a staple in my pantry. I always have eggs, milk, and yogurt on hand. I have the protein thing down.

However, meat substitutes are strangers to my kitchen, except for those that arrive in little white Chinese takeout containers tucked inside brown paper bags. We have a small Chinese restaurant around the corner with an extensive vegetarian menu with plenty of mock meat options, mostly made with seitan. I recently ventured into the world of cooking seitan, which I wrote about here.

In celebration of our new dining room table, I embraced the theme of new beginnings and chose to make tempeh for the first time. And that is how Korean BBQ-Style Tempeh became the first meal served on our new table.

I picked up my tempeh at Trader Joe’s awhile ago and it has been sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for this occasion. When I popped it out of the package, I thought, what on earth is this?

Mystified, I left the grainy beige blocks on my counter and hit Google.

Tempeh is a whole soybean product that originated in Indonesia on the island of Java (ooh, I love me some Java Estate coffee) that is created by a controlled fermentation process which binds the soy into blocks. The soybeans are soaked to soften, dehulled, and spread in a thin layer for fermentation. This process causes the beans to fuse together and form a large cake which is then sliced into blocks before packaging. The tempeh that I chose also included other grains: rice, barley, and millet.

Tempeh is a very nutritious food that is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. They’re not kidding when they call this block of tempeh a “powerhouse.” Check out the great nutritional information at World’s Healthiest Foods. This site is great for looking up the nutritional value of certain foods plus the reasons why your body needs these nutrients. Here are the nutrition facts for TJ’s Organic 3 Grain Tempeh, which I used in the recipe below.

20 grams of protein per serving? What?!?! Amazing. Now let’s get cooking.

I decided to marinate the tempeh in a Korean BBQ sauce for starters.

When the sweet and tangy smell of this sauce hit my nostrils, I thought of a Korean barbecue place I had been to in Manhattan that served up steaming hot rice bowls stuffed with tofu, that came with a variety of vegetables, toppings, and sauces on the side. My friend Melissa and I delighted in tossing the ingredients together as we ate and seasoning the results to taste. It felt like we were cooking our own meals, which is probably why we loved it so much.

I decided to do my own take on the concept by serving the components of the dish separately and lightly seasoned so Kyle and I could build our own bowls. In the spirit of construction, why not? We started with black pepper linguine.

Then we added sauteed vegetable slaw (onion, broccoli, carrots, cabbage).

And then I pan fried the marinated tempeh and crumbled it into bowls.

And made complete with seasonings…

It was totally delicious – almost like the real thing!

Oh how I miss NY…

Our tempeh adventure was made complete with the addition of a locally brewed beer. Cheers to new beginnings!

Bok Choy

I’ve been saving this post for awhile because every time I got to researching bok choy, I ended up getting intrigued by some other Chinese cooking ingredient and reading myself way off track. So while this is no longer the seasonally relevant post I had hoped it to be, I’m not waiting until bok choy reappears in my local farmers market to talk about it, so here we go!

This is not my photo. I snagged this one from milwaukeeadventurebootcamp because every picture I took of my bok choy turned out to be horrible. The shot of my springy, green, freshly washed Chinese cabbage came out looking like dark, wet, soggy lettuce. And that is not the most appetizing thing to look at, so I have omitted the un-sexy vegetable photo.

Bok choy has always scared me. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t know what to do with it, and I felt it was best to leave it to the experts down at the Chinese carry-out place around the corner. When I saw it at the grocery store or at the market, I admired it from a distance while picking out a nice bunch of kale or spinach leaves instead. Then one day I saw it while perusing the produce at the South of the James market and I decided to go for it. I don’t know if it was the extra shot of espresso in my iced latte or the fresh cash burning a hole in the pocket of my jersey cotton sundress but something made me think, “oh, what the heck.” And so began my adventure.

Bok choy originated in China, and then was introduced to Korea and Japan in the early 20th century as a result of war in the region. It was then that bok choy became the main ingredient in kimchi (yum!). It was introduced to Europe shortly thereafter and it is now available in markets around the world. While it is available year round at the grocery store, I have seen bok choy in the local farmers’ markets mainly in the Spring.

The crop has tender white stalks and dark green leaves. Its name comes from “pak choi” which means “white vegetable” in Chinese (according to chinesefood.about.com, so take that with a big grain of salt, or soy sauce if you prefer). Bok choy is rich in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. This was definitely one of the more healthy decisions I have made as a result of a wad of cash burning a hole in the pocket of my sundress. Three cheers for maturity!

I wasn’t too adventurous on my first attempt at cooking bok choy because I wasn’t sure how it would taste or how it would behave on the stovetop, so I made a nice stir fry. Somewhat vague instructions follow because my soy sauce stained notes were made hastily as I chopped and sauteed my way through this simple and improvised recipe.

1. Press one 14 oz block of tofu until water is drained.

2. Cut tofu into small rectangles and saute in oil over medium-high heat, turning to brown all sides. Remove tofu from pan and onto paper towels.

3. Add 8 oz of thin spaghetti to a pot of salted boiling water. Cook according to package instructions while stir frying the vegetables.

4. Add one small onion, chopped, to the stir fry pan and saute until translucent. Add 3-4 bunches of chopped bok choy (stalks and leaves) and a few chopped carrots to the pan, adding more cooking oil as necessary. It is okay to chop the vegetables into big chunks; I like it better that way than a fine dice.

5. Stir fry vegetables until bok choy is bright green and nearly wilted.

6. Mix together and add to the stir fry pan: 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of oil. Return the tofu to the pan and simmer 1-2 minutes.

7. Add 1 jalapeño, minced, with ribs and seeds removed, to the pan. Also add 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons of minced garlic. Simmer an additional 2-3 minutes.

8. Toss tofu-vegetable mixture with drained spaghetti and serve on adorable little square plates.

I think we ate this with mojitos, but in the future I would have it with a lager for a better pairing. But hey, when you need a minty sweet cocktail, you gotta have a minty sweet cocktail, so pair it with whatever you would like and choose your own adventure.