Quick-from-scratch bok choy is sure to please tastes, time

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Among the welcome things that come along to make life easier, count "The Quick Recipe" cookbook (Boston Common Press, 2003) by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. With that pedigree, it's a good bet that the book's recipes will work -- because they will have been tested and tested until declared perfect, in the magazine's tradition.

The book features some 300 "quick-from-scratch" recipes, all ready in less than 60 minutes, and some in even less time than that, ranging from soups and salads to desserts.

With the following recipe, the editors say linguine can be substituted for the fresh Chinese egg noodles listed among ingredients, but you will need to cook the pasta first instead of just adding it to the bok choy. Cook the linguine until almost al dente, about 7 minutes, add the bok choy, and cook until both the pasta and the greens are tender, another 3 to 4 minutes.

Bok Choy and Noodles with Spicy Beef Sauce

(Preparation and cooking time 20 minutes)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

One 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half

3 star anise pods

4 medium cloves garlic, sliced thin

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon Asian chili garlic sauce

Salt and ground black pepper

3/4 pound beef sirloin or rib-eye steak, halved crosswise, each half sliced thin across the grain

1 1/2 pounds bok choy, bottom inch of base discarded, washed well and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces

12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles

Bring 5 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the greens and noodles.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the cinnamon and star anise and cook, stirring often, until the cinnamon begins to unfurl, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until they soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and chili garlic sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and star anise and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the beef and simmer until the meat is gray around the edges and still slightly pink in the center, 1 minute.

Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon salt and the bok choy to the boiling water. Cook until the bok choy is almost tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the noodles, stir to separate them, and cook until both the bok choy and noodles are tender, about 2 minutes longer. Reserving 1/3 cup cooking water, drain the noodles and bok choy and return them to the pot. Add the sauce and reserved water and cook over medium-low heat, stirring to meld the flavors, about 1 minute. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

(Recipe from "The Quick Cook," Boston Common Press, 2003)

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