Today was one of those days that it was hard to find something specific to celebrate and I’m blaming it on the weather. It was cold and rainy today. In fact, I heard on the radio that it was the coldest June 6th since the 1920s. That put a damper on my plan to celebrate National Gardening Exercise Day unless I wanted to show off my skills as a mud shoveler. I was actually looking forward to some time in the garden. It’s a great way to get some exercise and get stuff done. The rain also made it hard to celebrate National Drive In Theater Day, although truth be told, the drive in theaters in the area do not open until this weekend so that was really why I couldn’t celebrate. I don’t blame them. Not much of a call for that kind of entertainment on a dull Tuesday in June. Still, I would have loved to go see a movie at a Drive In. I think the last time I was at a drive in I saw ET (and not on a rerelease). We must make a pilgrimage this summer.
I could have gone with celebrating National Applesauce Cake Day which is a kind of cake I have never heard of but to be honest, I wasn’t much in the mood for making a cake. You really do have to be in the right mood to make a cake. Otherwise making it becomes a chore and you can almost taste the spite from inside you that seeps into the batter. Good cooking means adding in some love and I didn’t have that to give today, at least not for applesauce. Because no specific day of celebration was gelling in my mind, I decided to celebrate something that is being celebrated during the month, as is my standard fallback plan. It just so happens that June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month. That I can work with.
The reason why I knew I could work with fresh vegetables is because I have local farm fresh bok choy sitting in my fridge. It’s the first time bok choy has ever sat in my fridge and it is there for an interesting reason. I just subscribed to a new vegetable delivery service. The service is called Veggie Box (I can almost hear Lola chuckling at that name) and they deliver right to my new office. It is a bi-weekly subscription in conjunction with some local farms from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. You pay a fee (pretty much what you would pay for fresh veggies at the store) and you get a box of fresh vegetables (and eventually fruit) delivered every other week and in this case, they come right to the office. The veggies come from local farmers and you get a medley of different varieties that were recently harvested. It’s like having the Farmer’s Market come to you without the patchouli oil smell. It’s kind of neat. You don’t really get to pick what comes – it’s a surprise depending on what was harvested that week, but it’s all super fresh and local. For years Lola has wanted us to invest in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which essentially means you purchase a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. You invest in the farmer and in turn, you get fresh vegetables. This is similar to that, although with this, you have access to multiple farms and it’s not such a commitment. It sounded like a great idea, so I signed up.
My first box came last week. It’s kind of like your own home version of the television show Chopped where they give you a box of ingredients and you have to figure out something fresh to cook. It’s early in the growing season here in New England, so I knew the first one would not be too exotic, but I was pleasantly surprised with what we received. There was some purple asparagus and young broccoli rabe which were easy enough to identify. I cooked these on our first night – grilling them both with some oil, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. That was easy, and tasty too. There was also a bag of leafy greens which I think they called mustard greens and I made a salad with them over the weekend. They were fresh and thankfully not mustardy tasting. It was like using an arugula or other unusual salad mix. The box also came with some radishes and I cut these up too and added them to the salad. I had nibbled on one of these fresh from the box and I forget how spicy a radish can be. It was a bit of a kick in the pants. I was careful on using them sparingly in the salad to not overwhelm. All I had left in the box were some really fresh green onions (which were about as big as any green onions I have ever seen), some fresh thyme and of course, the bok choy.
Bok choy is in the cabbage family. Specifically, it’s a Chinese cabbage. I’ve never cooked it before or even purchased it. I’ve never consciously eaten it before although I am sure it’s been in some kind of meal at some point in my life. Having to use it was my fresh vegetable challenge for the day and after doing some research, I kind of figured out that it works well in a stir fry. That sounded like as good of an idea as any so when it was time to cook, I grabbed my wok off the shelf, cleaned it up and was good to go. I started by heating some fresh garlic and ginger in sesame oil. To that I added in boneless chicken which I had cut into small pieces. I let that cook for a while. I had purchased a stir fry marinade which was supposedly General Tsao flavored and I was going to add that into the wok. Then I read the directions and it said I should have coated the chicken in corn starch before dropping it in the pan. That would help create a nice thick sauce. Because the chicken was already cooking, I decided to add some corn starch to some water and stir that slurry it into the chicken, then add in the General Tso seasoning. In my mind, this was a smart plan. In reality, it was not because I think I put in too much corn starch. It thickened the sauce yes but it also soaked up all the sauce so now I was short on sauce and you need a good sauce for a good stir fry. To add more liquid, I poured in some barbecue sauce as a last ditch only-thing-in-the-fridge effort. That changed the flavor. Still, the chicken was now simmering away in a nice thick liquid. When it was almost cooked through, I added in the bok choy which I had cleaned and rough chopped into big pieces. I also threw in some green onions and some frozen peas too. The bok choy wilted in no time which let me know it was done. I served it in a bowl over some rice.
In general, this was just ok and it was all because of my corn starch mishap. That just gave the chicken a starchy taste and kind of neutralized some of the flavor of the sauce. Had it only been the sauce without the extra corn starch, it would have been pretty tasty. It was good and hot, fresh from the wok, which was nice. More importantly, the bok choy was pretty tasty. It wilted like spinach and it kind of had that spinach taste to it. It was a soggy, dense green, but lots of flavor. Definitely added to the overall enjoyment of the stir fry and I was excited to try it, I just screwed up the sauce. But the fresh veggies were all good and I suppose that’s what I was really celebrating.
All in all, I think I gave fresh veggies a fair shake today. I took a vegetable that I have never cooked before and forced myself to make something with it. And to be fair, the veggie part came out fine. I might even buy more bok choy in the future (or maybe a future Veggie Box will contain more). I love fresh fruit and veggies. Most people wouldn’t guess that, but I really do. I love being able to support local farmers too, so this Veggie Box ended up being a great way to celebrate National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month. Funny how that works out. I’m looking forward to more great fruits and vegetables throughout the month too. A celebration with the greenest of bounties. And plenty of bok choy.
Next up: National Running Day