24 May 2009

I saw a dream

I am turning into a monstrous customer, Dear Reader. I don’t leave a selling spot, be it a food store or a farmer’s stall at the market, until I get what I desire for my recipes. Even when I am told that a required item is not in stock on a given day, I don’t leave. Instead, I put my hands on my hips, business-like, call forth my gritty determination, which is usually manifested through a teeth-clenched grin, reach over the counter, somewhat menacingly, and say slowly to the seller, ‘Are you sure you don’t have it?’. I also feel tempted to add, post factum: ‘Think twice before you answer’, but has not yet mastered the right throaty tone for it.
To prove, a sunny and peaceful Saturday morning found me performing the act of uncanny hostility. Namely, I did my downright irritating, a fact that’s probably better be kept secret or even forgotten, rather than spoken about so freely and not remotely uncocky: I thoroughly annoyed the vegetable man’s teenage assistant. It so happened that the boy refused to sell me a bunch of bok choy, or more accurately, he told me they did not have it. But I’ll tell you what, I knew for a fact that bok choy was there. Ok, I felt (intuition) it could be there, because last week I bought it on the same spot from the same farmer. Plus, I despondently needed the vegetable in question; I dreamt it, literally!

Given the diversity of vegetable stalls at the market, I could have easily retreated to another one with the plump, leafy beauty right on display, but I decided it would be nicer to push the boy for looking more carefully at his own goods. He did not emanate the air of a chap properly acquainted with the farmer’s produce, anyway. So I considered it a public service of sorts to encourage him to look further.

Just imagine how many hungry customers that would come after me asking for bok choy could be left feeling unsatisfied, their dinner plans ruined and faces long, if I were not so demanding, making the boy look for bok choy. I, virtually, served the community.

‘I don’t have it’, he said for the third time.

‘Could you please ask somebody else’ – there were a few other helpers to the farmer – ‘just to confirm that you really don’t have it?’ I had on sun glasses which gave me more mysterious authority of someone to listen to. I clearly felt the boy was approaching the condition of a certifiable anger and fear too.

(What does she want from me?)

(Bok choy!)

And so it went on until the farmer himself – and I thank the nature’s forces for it -- overheard the ongoing exchange of pretentiously polite phrases between one miffed customer and as much peeved seller, and thunderously said that bok choy ‘is there’, pointing with his index finger, covered with dirt from the carrots he was picking over for another customer, towards the back of the tent where one could see a mountain of wooden crates and rough sacks.

Having snatched the much sought-after vegetable, I can now tell you, Dear Reader, about a dish I saw in my dream, like I said, literally. I hope you understand now why I so needed this damn bok choy. And in case you are wondering, it was not a nightmare in which leafy Asian vegetables dominate the earth, demanding everybody lives on bok choy, drinks rice beverages and speaks fluent Chinese; nor was I drunk. Quite simply, I just saw a dream. And this I may attribute to my recent walk through the Amsterdam China Town where the street air is soaked with the mélange of sour-sweet-tangy odours one can dream about in the end of the day, which I did.

Notably, despite the dreamt-up nature of the dish – Sautéed Bok Choy with Garlic, Ginger and Raisins, there is nothing far-fetched about the interplay of the ingredients. Each praises the other in a delicate and polite manner: browned fragrant garlic and ginger willingly give their deep flavours to peanut-y bok choy, reinforcing a handsome Asian character of the vegetable; and black raisins, together with soy sauce, create an intricate, tantalizing sweet-savoury combination. All these render the combined result as a gracefully simple and harmonious meal. What I also value about it is that the dish, I believe, will take well to substitutions. Don’t like the idea of raisins in an otherwise savoury dish? Go for toasted peanuts; these will taste superb with bok choy, I am sure. Or use peanut or sesame oil for cooking instead of olive oil. Feel free to dream things up.

Sautéed Bok Choy with Garlic, Ginger, and Raisins
(Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a light meal)

2 pounds bok choy, thoroughly washed and sliced from tip to base in ¼-1/2 inch ribbons
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a knob (about 1 inch) of fresh ginger, pressed
2 Tsb olive oil
2 ½ tsp soy sauce, or less
1 Tbs black raisins
Freshly ground black pepper/lemon juice to taste
Roasted sesame oil for a final touch (optional)

1. In a large skillet, combine the olive oil, garlic and ginger and warm over medium (-low) heat. When the garlic and ginger start to sizzle (don’t wait until they brown!), add the white tough stem parts of the bok choy and stir well to coat with the oil. Cook until they are almost tender, about 3-4 minutes. They will look sweaty.

2. Fold in the green parts. When they start to wilt, add the soy sauce by a teaspoon -- taste as you go to make sure the dish is not over-salted, along with the black raisins, and stir well. Cook until the greens are completely wilted, but don’t overdo. Season with black pepper and lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature with a few drizzles of roasted sesame oil (if you happen to have one; if not, don’t worry, the dish doesn’t lose its Asian allure without it).


Anonymous said...

will definitely try this one! I left a lovely blog award for you on my website.

anya said...

Oeufmayo, I am rushing, stumbling over the imaginary steps, to your site...