Before Christmas, I had lunch with my friend Stacy. We were talking about food - as always - and she asked me what I did for veggies in the winter.
Of course, eating local in an Ohio winter is almost impossible unless you've had the good fortune to freeze or can your own. I did get some strawberries and peas frozen but that was about it.
At present, I have been haunting ethnic groceries. Being a poor house owner, I haven't been able to eat out like I used to. So I have been learning a lot about Indian and Asian cooking, which are two of my favorite types of eat out food.
My most recent visit was to CAM grocery over on Bethel Road. They have a great selection of fresh produce, meats and seafood, plus a lot of staple items like soy sauce and rice. The prices of the produce are pretty amazing. I picked up 1.5 pounds of baby Shanghai bok choy for $2.50.
Chinese veggies like baby bok choy are great for quick dinners because they cook so rapidly.
A quick way to make a side dish from baby bok choy:
- Clean and cut apart the bunches of greens. It's ok if they are not totally dry.
- Thinly slice a clove or two of garlic and grate a little fresh ginger if you have it (if you don't its not the end of the world)
- Heat up some oil in a non-stick skillet.
- When the oil is hot, toss in the garlic and ginger.
- Now toss in the moist baby bok choy into the pan, and toss until the leaves just start to look wilted.
- Take out of pan and put onto plates. Hit it with a couple shots of soy or sprinkle with salt. Also, you could toss the warm leaves with a little oyster sauce before plating if you are partial to oyster sauce.
I served it up with sliced roast pork and mashed sweet potatoes. I like the unadorned flavor of greens so a lot of people may find that pretty minimal.
The other thing I did was make "Fabulous Fake Asian Noodle Soup".
I love soups like pho and egg drop soup, so I kinda came up with my own version.
This serves two.
Faux Asian broth
3 cups of homemade no-salt chicken stock (See notes below about commercial broth)
A piece of ginger, cut about 1/4" thick and smashed with back of a knife (you want it kinda beat up to release flavor)
A clove of garlic, smashed
A couple slices of onion, thin
A small dash of five spice powder OR a mixture of star anise, cinnamon bark, Szchuan peppercorns and cloves (I will be truthful and tell you I use just a little piece of cinnamon stick and the peppercorns because my hubby hate anise and cloves!!)
Put all the spices into the broth and simmer for about 30 mins while you are prepping the rest of the soup items. You can also do this ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate the strained broth.
1/2 pound of baby bok choy or other greens, cleaned and blanched
3 or 4 white button mushrooms or any other mild mushroom of choice, thinly sliced
1/4 pound of meat, thinly sliced or diced (I've used shredded leftover chicken and pork roast. The main thing is that the pieces will fit in a spoon.)
1/2 pound of fresh noodles, either Chinese or Italian (Cook according to the instructions)
2 green onions, finely sliced
Fish Sauce (if you have it)
Asian sesame oil (if you have it)
Here is how I streamline my prep. If you have it, use a hot pot to get your water to a boil quickly. Put it into a saucepan on the stove over high heat to keep it boiling. Have a bowl with ice water sitting next to the stove. Plunge the greens into boiling water for about a minute (until they look bright green). Using a slotted spoon, fish out and put into the ice water. Let the blanching water return to a boil and throw in the noodles. Cook until finished (I let mine go until they are no longer al dente. I like soft noodles in soup.) Drain and rinse the noodles.
Split up the veggies, noodles and meat between two large soup bowls.
Remove the flavoring agents from the broth.
Now here comes the tricky part - the salty part.
I use unsalted broth because I want the salt to come from soy sauce and fish sauce. How much you use of each is fairly subjective - I would estimate about 1 -2 Tablespoons of soy sauce and a teaspoon of fish sauce does it for me. Make sure you taste the broth after you add the minimal amounts of the salty agents and adjust as needed. The flavor should be very light. If you put too much soy sauce it will over whelm the flavor of everything else. If you choose to use low sodium commercial broth, please be very careful as things can go bad very quickly - nothing is worse than too much salt in a soup.
Once you are happy with the broth, ladle over the ingredients in the bowls.
If you have some Asian sesame oil, you can add a couple of drops to each bowl.
This is a very light soup - I usually eat it when I don't want to get filled up. You could add more veggies, meat and noodles to it if you would like to make it more filling. Everything but the cooking of the noodles and the bok choy can be done the day before, so all you have to do is heat up the broth while you finish the noodles and greens. You could even use the stock to cook the noodles, I suppose, and add the bok choy just before you take it off the heat. It might muddy up the broth though... something to think about though...
(Still no camera. My daughter took the pictures of the baby bok choy for me. Thanks Annie!!!)