Flavors of the season unite for a delicious and healthful dish!
When I was growing up, my dad was the gardener in the family and my mom the cook. He loved puttering with his tomatoes and potatoes, and I think it was probably the only time in his life, besides fishing. when he was alone, and even then, we kids tended to invade his territory.
One of the vegetables he loved to grow was pak choy. Everyone seems to call it bok choy now, but I’m sticking with how I learned it, recognizing even that is often spelled pak choi! To us, it was an exotic vegetable, but Mom loved to use it in salad and stews and her occasional attempt at making something vaguely resembling an Asian dish.
A nutritional powehouse
It is really easy to grow, and few vegetables in your garden will offer as much in terms of nutrition. A member of the cabbage family, it is low in calories and fat, pak choy is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including Vitamins K, A, C, B6, and E, and calcium zinc, potassium, folate, and selenium. It has properties that help fight against cancer and heart disease as well as being an immune system booster.
I think I need to eat more of this!
For the salad I’ve made here, I’ve added a lovely new local apple for a little sweetness, and some mild red miso for a little extra flavor. You can use as much or little miso as you like, just start with a bit and taste as you go. While there is not a lot of it in this dish, miso does offer great health benefits on its own from boosting the immune system to aid in digestion. I always have a jar or two in the refrigerator and use it often as a little secret flavor booster.
If you want a little heat, use a hot pepper rather than sweet, or add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
The best cider, unpasteurized
The cider is important in this dish. Look for unpasteurized cider from a reputable local grower. It will have tons more flavor even though you will be heating it in this application.
This is fast to put together and can be served as a warm salad, room temperature, a side dish, or a base for a protein and call it a meal.
Charred Pak Choy Salad with Apple Cider and Miso Dressing
- 2 or 3 heads of baby or medium pak choy (bok choy)
- 2 tbsp. fruity olive oil
- 1 plump shallot, sliced lengthwise
- ½ sweet red frying pepper, or hot pepper if you like
- 1 cup unpasteurized apple cider
- 1 tsp. yellow or mellow red miso
- 1 large apple, ¼-inch dice (leave peeling on)
- 1 tsp. fresh minced flat-leafed parsley
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Slice the pak choy lengthwise into four quarters, leaving the root intact. Brush lightly with olive oil and char or grill just until the greens soften, the vegetable just charred but still crisp. Set aside.
Heat the oil over medium high in a saute pan and add the shallot and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables just start to soften, just a moment or two, and add the cider and miso. Mix this in well, then add the apples.
Continue cooking until the apples just start to soften, this is quick too. Stir in the parsley, remove from the heat, and whisk in the butter to thicken the dressing a bit. Season with the vinegar, salt, and pepper and taste. I like a little more vinegar, but this is all about personal preference.
Chop the pak choy and arrange on a platter or shallow bowl, and season. Top with the dressing and serve. You can add a few chopped nuts if you like, or some crunchy croutons.
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