Like anything else on this blog, this meal has a backstory.....
The very first time I ever had bok choy was after I moved up north. It's not a common sight in Alabama. We were living right outside of Philly and every once in a while we'd go into the city and shop at this amazing grocery store called Essene. Parking on South Street can be nearly impossible and we wouldn't have even bothered if this place wasn't so awesome. It came highly recommended by our friend John. He does these cleansing fasts a few times a year and when he prepares to break it, his first meal is usually this total hippie soup. It's chock full of nutrients and quality ingredients and he buys it all from Essene. He informed us that if you go a while without eating, the first meal that you ingest is going to be deeply absorbed into your system so it better be top notch.
Chris and I never got around to fasting but we did decide to go check this place out for ourselves. We did some shopping and decided to sit down and enjoy a meal from their entirely vegetarian and mostly organic food bar. I thought the bok choy cabbage looked great so I put some on my plate. I don't remember anything else I had but I remember how much I loved those greens. The texture was a cross between crunchy celery (but more mild tasting) and a flat leaf kale. It was very simply seasoned but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I didn't have nearly as much experience with that sort of thing as I do now. I think it's funny that our Turkish friends avoid bok choy because bok is their word for shit. Pardon my French. Or should I say Turkish?
Fast forward through several years of cooking up bok choy in several different and pleasing ways but never really forgetting the greens from Essene. I know, it's a bit ridiculous the way certain things stick with me. A few months ago, my friend Shannon gave me an old grill pan that she was going to Freecycle. I'd been wanting to get my hands on one so I was excited! Our condo doesn't allow grills. Some people have them anyways but we have a nosy neighbor who has the association on speed dial and would probably rat us out!
While we were snowed in last week, we had company. Our friend Vahe is a complete health nut so while we were getting ready to play some Settlers of Catan, I looked into the fridge to see what I could cook up. My bok choy was looking sad so I figured I'd use it or lose it. We were at Whole Foods the day before and I saw some heads cut in half and grilled with a glaze. It looked great so I decided to try something similar with my pan. I cut them up and mixed some tamari, sesame oil and some ginger juice together to brush onto the mix. I cut up a brick of tofu and threw on some shitake mushrooms that also were looking a bit dejected....
Look at those lovely grill marks!!!
This really turned out to be quite tasty! It's definitely the closest I've ever had to the Essene bok choy. I think the slight char is what did it. It made everyone happy and gave me the fuel I needed to lay the smack down in Catan. I made it again for dinner tonight and the family scarfed it up. The best part? The entire meal is very low in calories and quite high in fiber and nutrients so it's very diet friendly. Between the watermelon I had for lunch and the grilled dinner, it almost feels like summer despite the fact there is a foot of snow on the ground!
If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend treating yourself to a meal from Essene. There's never a lack of inspiration for future meals you can cook at home. Bonus: There is a cool tea shop across the street!
Essene Market & Cafe
719 South 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147