Saturday, April 9, 2011

Baby Bok Choy with Sweet-Tart Fresh Mint Sauce and Toasted Quinoa

Baby veggies and baby kitty. Chewie is two this month, so I suppose she is not really a baby anymore. She's my baby, though. My furry, angry baby.

This was a quick and filling lunch to tide me over through Race Judicata this afternoon. The U of M law school sponsors the race every year to race money for Memphis Area Legal Services, and I am going to volunteer. (And, um, chow down on Rendezvous barbecue, sliders from Bardog, and beer afterward [the other day's post notwithstanding...].)

Another big grain-and-greens lunch here, this time with baby bok choy from Gracious Gardens and spearmint from the U of M edible garden. I've been really getting into whole grains lately (steel cut oats, wheat berries, quinoa, barley...) in anticipation of fresh summer grain salads. They're fun, and they keep me full for a pretty long time. The first time I made quinoa--the so-called "mother grain," which you can read more about here--I was kind of meh about it. My friend Leslie told me to toast the grain first and cook it in broth, rather than water. Genius! This turned out much more flavorful than my first attempt.

Baby Bok Choy with Sweet-Tart Fresh Mint Sauce and Toasted Quinoa
mint sauce recipe adapted from

For the quinoa
1/4 cup dry quinoa, rinsed (rinsing gets rid of the soapy saponins that coat it)
1 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth or stock

For the mint sauce and salad
1/4 yellow onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup tightly packed spearmint leaves, chopped
small bunch of baby bok choy

First start your quinoa...

Place your rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan, turn the flame to medium, and cook it for about 5 minutes or until you can smell a nice nutty flavor and/or the grain turns somewhat translucent.

Add the broth/stock. I make stock in vast quantities in my Crock-Pot, using vegetable scraps I save in my "stock bag" in the freezer. Then I freeze the stock in ice cube trays to make it easy to portion out later (apologies to my roommate for hogging the ice cube trays when it is stock time). Here I just dumped the frozen stock straight into the saucepan and let it melt over the flame. It worked fine.

So, bring the stock to a boil, then lower the flame and cook for 15-20 minutes until the grains have absorbed all the liquids, stirring every now and then.

Make your mint sauce...
Okay, first a pro tip on mincing garlic, onions, whatever spherical thing you need to mince. If it's an onion you've got, stick it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before you cut. This will buy you about 2 minutes of tears-free chopping, which may be all you need if you work quickly. It also helps to use a santoku knife, if you've got one. It has little scalloped-shaped notches on it that keep veggies from clinging to the blade, thereby irritating you.

First, cut the garlic several times lengthwise, almost to, but not quite through, the pointy end of the clove. (Yeah, I know, the picture, but do as I say, not as I do!)

Then turn your knife parallel to the cutting board and, holding the garlic slices together tightly, gently slice through the center of the clove, again going almost but not quite to the pointy end.

Then turn your knife perpendicular to the cutting board again and slice downward. Ta-da! Little mincies.

Onion can get the same treatment.

In a medium bowl, stir together the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and vinegar, and let stand for 20 minutes. This softens the flavor of the raw onion. Then whisk in the olive oil. Right before you serve, stir in the chopped mint.

To slice my bok choy, I first separated leaves from stems and sliced each separately, but I don't suppose you have to.

Combine the dressing with the sliced bok choy, plate with some toasty quinoa, and have an alternately tangy and nutty lunch!


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