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A FRESH Point of View: Oh Baby (Bok Choy) – Seasonal Superfood

It is one of those vegetables that many Freshies tell me they have heard of or eaten at a restaurant but have not attempted to cook at home.  Bok choy means “white vegetable” in Chinese.  It is one of the popular crops in China, the Philippines, and Vietnam.  There are more than 20 varieties of bok choy but only 2 are commonly seen in the United States – traditional and “Shanghai” (also known as “baby”).  Traditional has ruffled dark green leaves while the baby version is bright green with smooth, round leaves.

Although classified as a cabbage, bok choy more closely resembles collards or romaine lettuce. It has wide white, thick curved stalks and broad deep green leaves with white veins.  It is juicy, crisp and mild – almost celery-like.   This vegetable can be steamed, braised, boiled or added to your favorite stir-fry.   Baby bok choy is more tender than traditional and is great for raw slaws.

Bok choy is one of the top five most nutrient-dense Superfoods.  It is great for the skin with high levels of Vitamin A, C, and D.  It also contains good amount of minerals like calcium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium.

Be sure to try my favorite, baby bok choy, during its peak season (March through June).  Make it one of your inaugural dishes for this year’s grilling season with my recipe below.  You’ll wish baby bok choy was in season all summer to accompany your grilled fish and sweet corn.

Grilled Baby Bok Choy
4 heads of baby bok choy
2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbs fresh dill, finely chopped
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano Cheese

Slice heads of baby bok choy in half length-wise. Soak in cool water for 10 minutes to remove any grit hidden inside. While heads soak, heat olive oil in a small frying pan. Add thinly sliced garlic and stir until just golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove garlic and take pan off heat.

Take baby bok choy out of water and gently shake and pat dry. Slice off dark green leaves from the lighter heads. Coarsely chop leaves and set to the side. Brush both sides of heads with garlic-infused oil from pan.  Place with cut side up and sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, pepper and dill.

Place seasoned heads on pre-heated grill with cut side down. Grill, covered, for 5 to 8 minutes.  Turn heads over and continue grilling until golden color starts to appear.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar over cut sides.  Grill, covered, again for 5 minutes, turning halfway through.  Remove from grill when fork-tender.

Heat the remaining oil in the small frying pan. Add pine nuts and toast slightly. Add reserved chopped baby bok choy leaves and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir constantly until just wilted. Remove from heat.

To serve, plate grilled heads and top with the wilted leaves and toasted pine nuts.  Sprinkle with cheese.

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