This last Sunday, I hosted a collaborative dinner and book signing at my old restaurant stomping grounds, The Flats Bistro in Kenai, to celebrate the launch of my cookbook. One of the dishes on the evening's menu was a version of my black cod over udon with baby bok choy. The day before the dinner, the head chef texted me saying he had struck out in his attempts to find baby bok choy at local markets. "I'm on it," I quickly replied back. When my wife stopped by Safeway later that day, I asked her to look for baby bok choy. All they had was full-sized bok choy, so she came home with several large heads of it in the event that we couldn't find the babies anywhere else. The next morning, the day of the dinner, we finally located baby bok choy in the organic produce section of the Fred Meyer in Soldotna. We bought every single one they had and the dinner was a success.
Alas, I still had several heads of full-sized bok choy sitting in my refrigerator at home needing to be used up. It's a mild-flavored vegetable, but it's hardy and can stand up to a fair amount of heat. I love to sear it and get some beautiful color on it, so I went for my cast iron skillet. While typically bok choy is served with Asian food and flavors, I opted for garlic, olive oil, red pepper flake and lemon. This makes a lovely and quick green side dish to serve alongside a nice steak or fillet of salmon. Or use it as your greens in a grain bowl. You can also use baby bok choy in this recipe. Just slice them in long quarters.
Garlicky cast iron bok choy with lemon
2 large heads of bok choy, cut in long leafy segments
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, chopped
half of a lemon
sea salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes into the hot oil. Add the bok choy to the pan in a single layer.
Sprinkle the garlic on top and season with sea salt. Allow the bok choy to sear undisturbed for about 2 minutes, or until browned on one side and beginning to wilt. Turn the bok choy. Place the half of a lemon cut side down into the pan and allow it to sear and brown, about 60 seconds.
When the bok choy is tender and wilted, remove the pan from the heat and squeeze the lemon over top. Serve promptly while hot and sizzling.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai. Her new book "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook" is available through her website alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.