Saturday, April 17, 2010

Choy Sum

Normally, I like to follow recipes, but every now-and-then, it makes sense to know how to cook things without one, and here is a method you can use for many things, from greens to Brussels sprouts. This method comes from Paul Mayer’s 1975 “Vegetable Cookbook” (published by Concord, California’s own Nitty Gritty Productions – YEAH!) and is quite easy and tasty. And so I turned to this when I got some strange greens at the farmer’s market and was not sure what to do with them.

My daughter and I have a game we play at the farmer’s market, where we have to buy something we have not tried before and cook it up. This is always enjoyable, but sometimes not exactly delicious. This time, however, it was a rousing success. Thank you, O vegetarians of the 70s! (Yep, that means you, Mom.)

Choy Sum, aka Canton Bok Choi. I had certainly never bought this before, at least not in this flowered state: a bundle of leaves and many, many bright, mustard-yellow flowers that were said to be edible. On this day at the market, everyone seemed to have piles of the stuff, as is the case with the smaller local markets where you really get JUST what is in season locally, even if it means all anyone has that day is carrots and onions. So my daughter and I made a deal – we would get some, and just try it, knowing that it might taste awful, but would at least be amusing! When we got home, I looked it up in my Produce Guide, which said when there were lots of flowers, it might be bitter. Yikes! So I first blanched it all for 1 minute before cooking it a la Vegetable Cookbook. I made a couple of modifications too – using chicken stock in place of water, and cooking it a few minutes longer than 7, more like 10. I was liberal with the butter, and the leaves tasted like bok choy (so far, so good, we both like that) and Lo and Behold, the flowers tasted FABULOUS! My daughter actually fought me for them, eating pounds of the stuff! She ate them before her chicken – success!

The Paul Mayer Method for Cooking Green Vegetables

1. Bring a teakettle full of water to a full boil.
2. Into another pot with a lid, scatter a handful of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Place over high heat until sugar begins to caramelize.
3. Quickly add prepared vegetables. Without reducing heat, pour in the boiling water. The water never ceases boiling and the vegetables start cooking immediately. Cover the pot and boil rapidly for exactly 7 minutes.
4. Quickly drain vegetables into a colander and rinse briefly with cool tap water to stop the cooking action. The vegetables will remain hot!
5. Drain well and season with melted butter, or serve with sauce or seasoned butter, or topped with almonds. (This method is not used for root vegetables, eggplant, artichokes or spinach.)

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