The super-cute heads of baby bok choy lay on the cutting board, asking to be made into something, but what?
When considering what to cook with an ingredient I don’t use often, such as bok choy, a taste helps get flavor and texture associations going in my head. In this case, biting into one leaf told me its mild, neutral flavor could play foil to stronger ingredients. Its tender-crisp texture suggested only the slightest introduction to heat was necessary.
So, a soup it would be. The bok choy would cook in just minutes, enough to warm through but still retain that fresh bite. Companions of tofu, shiitake mushrooms, carrots and peppers would do likewise. The broth itself simmers with shiitake mushroom stems (a resourceful use of trimmings too tough to eat) and fresh ginger to build flavor. More ginger and sesame oil finish it.
Although there is a fair amount of chopping and slicing involved here, if you do it while the broth simmers, you’ll save time. Then everything goes into the pot, and your soup is ready in no time.
BOK CHOY, MUSHROOM AND GINGER SOUP
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 piece (3 inches long) fresh ginger, peeled, cut in thin slices lengthwise, plus 1 teaspoon grated ginger
6 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
4 baby bok choy
2 medium carrots
4 to 5 ounces extra-firm or firm tofu
1/3 of a red bell pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
Separate the mushroom stems from the caps; trim the bottoms of the stems. Reserve stems. Slice caps thinly.
Put the mushroom stems and ginger slices in a large saucepan with the broth; heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, to flavor the broth while you prepare the other vegetables, 15 minutes (up to 30 minutes, if you have the time).
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and tofu. Trim the bottoms of the bok choy; cut the leaves crosswise into 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch pieces. Cut the carrots crosswise into thin coins. (The pieces should be so thin that they cook very quickly.) Cube the tofu in small dice. Slice the bell pepper into thin pieces crosswise.
Remove the mushroom stems and ginger slices from the broth with a slotted spoon; discard. Add the chopped vegetables, tofu and grated ginger all at once. Heat to a simmer; cook, just until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Season with the soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste and correct seasonings before serving. Serves 4.
Nutrition information per serving: 242 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 30 g carbohydrates, 25 g protein, 941 mg sodium, 10 g fiber