Saturday, January 7, 2012

easy greens

The trees are bare. The holiday decorations are getting put away. Yes, it is time to hunker down for the winter.
All the over-indulgent eating I participated in these last few weeks has caught up with me. Craving a little purification, I am thinking green.

A recent stroll through a local Asian market this week led to a restorative assortment of leafy greens, the backbone of a healthy diet, favored so much in Eastern cultures. Asian markets are my go to place for fresh greens any time of year. Looking over several tempting varieties of baby bok choi, it was the dark Chinese broccoli with its thick stems, deep verdant color and tiny floral buds that held the most immediate attraction.
 Chinese broccoli cooks in minutes and has a mild nutty flavor.
Curious for some preparation ideas I consulted a few favorite Asian cookbooks including Kylie Kwong's Simple Chinese Cooking and the gorgeously illustrated Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid.
The opinions were unanimous: quickly blanch the broccoli (it only takes a minute or two in boiling salted water) then dress the cooked greens with an assertively seasoned oil or condiment, sesame oil or oyster sauce for example, and serve. Fast and EASY!
Lucky me, gifts made in the kitchen with love from the heart courtesy of my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law.

The condiments I had on hand were magnificent homemade creations I received as holiday gifts. My family has a tradition going back to early childhood of making gifts for Christmas. As soon as we were able to hold a crayon my siblings and I were pressed into service to paint, glue and stir our way through countless homemade projects over the years. As adults we introduced the tradition to our own young children and now it is a very firmly established part of our annual celebrations.  I have received, and over-seen the creation of, years of projects including handmade: snow globes, soaps, lotions, syrups, candles, pot holders, earrings, bottle stoppers, candies, doll clothes, napkin rings and of course cookies.
Exchanges around our Christmas tree were not all Little House on the Prairie, as jealousies emerged amongst the children when one year my young niece showed up with surprisingly professional versions of homemade shampoo, hand cream AND bubble bath for everyone. Our lumpy little clay and glitter studded candle holders seemed pathetic by comparison.

This year I scored in the receiving end with additively seasoned almonds, a slamming jalapeno sauce, and a golden citrus syrup loaded with slices of lemon and orange. In a mood to experiment I decided to jazz up my Chinese broccoli with a combination of the jalapeno sauce for heat and the orange syrup for the tart/sweet balance. The resulting combination made a fabulous sauce. Sweet syrups and hot sauces go really well together. Think about Thai dipping sauces and you get the idea.

Chinese Broccoli with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

1 bunch of Chinese Broccoli, cut into thirds
2 quarts salted water
1/4 cup orange marmalade or orange syrup
1 Tbs. sesame oil
2 Tbs. hot sauce (or to taste)

Soak the broccoli in cold water to rinse. Boil the salted water in a sauce pan. Add the broccoli and cook for about one minute till the greens are bright in color and the stems are tender. Drain and put in a serving bowl.
Heat the marmalade, sesame oil and hot sauce in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for one minute so the flavors can combine and then pour the warm sauce over the cooked greens. Serve immediately.


  1. Hi Deb,
    Coincidentally, I'm using Chinese broccoli now at the restaurant, too! I prepare it in two ways (for different dishes). The first way is the way you describe here, except I only use the top third of the broccoli.
    Then for the second way, I use the lower two thirds of the stems by slicing them very thinly on the bias. I toss the (raw) slices with citrus juices and walnut oil to make a salad. It's crisp and sweet.

  2. ooohhh, I like the sound of that broccoli rabe stem salad. What a great way to use the whole plant. Bet it is delish!

  3. Hi Deb,
    I really love your blog - you always inspire me!
    Regards,Lois S.


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