Many varieties of beautiful green vegetables become available in the late spring and early summer. Often, the issue with these vegetables is that they can be bitter, overwhelmingly so if not handled properly.
To manage the bitterness, we can borrow a simple technique from classic Chinese cuisine. It involves quickly boiling the greens in salted water, adding a pungent sauce, and then pouring hot oil over the sauce to gently cook and aromatize the vegetables. There are multiple reasons this works so well. The quick boil removes some of the bitter flavor. And since the vegetables aren’t sliced, the cell walls aren’t damaged, which also limits the release of bitter flavors. Lastly, the pungent sauce and hot oil release sweet and spicy flavors that balance out any remaining bitterness.
BOK CHOY WITH SWEET PEPPERS
Start to finish: 20 minutes
2 pounds baby bok choy
1 small red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons salt
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (Aleppo pepper or gochugaru work equally well)
1 tablespoon sesame seed
1 teaspoon sugar
Fill a large stockpot with 4 quarts of water and 4 tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil.
In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper and sugar. Stir to combine and set aside.
When the water reaches a boil, add the bok choy and cook for
2 minutes. Remove from the water, strain thoroughly and place on a platter
Evenly distribute the bell pepper and garlic ginger sauce over the bok choy.
In a small saucepot, add the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat just until there is a wisp of smoke. Immediately remove from the heat and carefully spoon the hot oil over each piece of bok choy.
Top with sesame seeds and serve immediately.
This is excellent on its own or served with a side of steamed rice. It’s also great as a side dish for grilled meat and fish.