Dinner Inspired by Bok Choy

My dad has a big garden and loves to share his produce. We were at my parents’ house on Saturday to celebrate Mother’s Day and were taking the mandatory tour of the garden. I shouldn’t say “mandatory” since that makes it seem like we don’t enjoy these walks through the garden. They are always impressive and make me envy his space, though you would have to be retired or a teacher with summers off (which he used to be) to have the time to take care of such a big garden.

The garden tours almost always end with Dad giving us some vegetable or other to take home. This week Dad cut off a beautiful bunch of bok choy for us. Immediately Rich and I looked at each other and said, “Asian noodles for dinner this week!”

The original recipe, Baked Sesame Chicken Noodles was from a Cooking Light issue from 2004 and is a favorite, when we can get good bok choy. As written, the recipe calls for red bell peppers and shiitake mushrooms, neither of which are favorites of ours. I usually replace them with snow peas and extra bok choy. Feel free to reduce the bok choy to 2 cups and use 1 cup red bell pepper strips and 8 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, sliced. Or use vegetables that you like, to equal 4 cups. As with any casserole or noodle dish, the vegetables are easy to substitute for ones you like. Just be sure they are mostly cooked before the casserole goes in the oven, since it bakes for only 20 minutes.

The original recipe also called for cream sherry (2 tablespoons) and rice vinegar (1 tablespoon). The first time I made it I didn’t have either, so I used dry white wine. Again, if you want to go with the original recipe, feel free. I am including the recipe as I make it, because that is how I have made it for years and that is how it works for us.

If you aren’t familiar with bok choy, it is a vegetable related to cabbage that is often used in Asian dishes. It looks like white celery that has been blown up at the bottom and leafed out in dark green leaves at the top. Not the best description, but the picture should help you find it. You use both the white stalk and the green leafy parts. It tastes a lot sweeter and milder than cabbage, without the hot bite cabbage can have. I have never eaten it raw, but cooked it has a nice sweetness, if it is fresh. The older it is, and the stuff in the grocery store can be older than we would like to know, the stronger it tastes. Not that the strong taste is bad, but we prefer it sweeter. Thanks for the garden-fresh bok choy, Dad!

Be sure and post in the comments how you make the recipe yours. And post what vegetable finds have inspired your dinner plans.

Baked Sesame Chicken Noodles
adapted from Cooking Light
by The Cook’s Life
4 large main dish servings

 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil or olive oil
2 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut in ½-inch pieces*
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (about a 2-inch piece)
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry white wine or dry vermouth
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups thinly sliced bok choy**
1 cup snow peas, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup green onions, sliced
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Topping:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside. Combine chicken broth and cornstarch and set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions, leaving al dente. Drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, ginger and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring once. Stir in soy sauce and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir broth mixture and add to skillet. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly, or until mixture boils and sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and add wine and crushed red pepper. Add bok choy, snow peas, green onions, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds and cooked pasta. Mix gently with large spoon or tongs until well combined.

Pour mixture into greased baking dish. Gently spread into an even layer. Mix butter, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds and panko in a small bowl. Top noodle mixture with bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until topping begins to brown and sauce is bubbly. Serve immediately. Leftovers reheat well.

*Can use about 2 cups leftover, cooked chicken.
**After washing the bok choy, cut each stalk in half lengthwise and then cut into thin strips horizontally. Use both the white stalk and the dark green leafy parts.

Download the recipe here.

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