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Eat this! Bok choy, delicious, nutritious and not fattening

Prairie Fire greens

Prairie Fire's sauteed greens.

What it is: A member of the cabbage family, bok choy or pak choi (Brassica chinensis), sometimes called “white cabbage” or “Chinese cabbage,” is a crisp, stalky vegetable that typically has long white stems and crinkled green leaves and mild flavor. It’s common to several Asian cuisines but rarely seen in Western cooking. Both leaves and stems are edible.

Although more than 20 varieties exist, you’ll likely have trouble finding any beyond the regular bok choy and “baby bok choy,” a miniature version prized for its tenderness. Bok choy is low in calories and high in vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium and phosphorous.

Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris

Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris

Where it comes from: Bok choy has been cultivated in China for at least 6,000 years. It was introduced to Europe as long ago as the 19th century, but has yet to make significant inroads into European cuisines.

What to do with it: Use bok choy anywhere you want some crunch and a light cabbagey flavor. Bok choy works beautifully in braises or stir-fries; it can be simply steamed or added to soups and stews. It also mixes deliciously with other greens and vegetables.

Chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris of Prairie Fire in the West Loop and Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook recently shared this recipe for bok choy stir-fried with other greens with Northbrook Junior High School students learning about food and good nutritional choices.

Prairie Fire’s sauteed greens

Chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris

4 ounces baby bok choy, roughly chopped
8 ounces rainbow chard, leaves and stems separated
4 ounces spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup diced yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil.
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the bok choy a few minutes, until tender. Remove the bok choy from the water using tongs. Plunge into a bowl of ice water.

Dice the chard stems and set aside. Roughly chop the chard leaves and add them to the boiling water; cook till tender. Remove with a slotted spoon. Then cook the spinach very briefly; it cooks quickly. Squeeze the vegetables to remove any excess water.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions and chard stems until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the greens and mix and cook for 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot. 4 servings.