If you can’t imagine why I would be so excited to finally have space for a grill again, you haven’t (yet) learned the pleasures of grilled cabbage, asparagus, mushrooms, chili peppers and more.
I grill for the same reasons meat eaters do: I love the flavors that result. Of course, it’s also relatively easy — although vegetables usually need as much prep as meats do, if not a little more.
Take bok choy. Like its cousins cabbage and cauliflower, it tastes best when it loses extra water and caramelizes. But it’s really two vegetables in one, and to make it shine on the grill, you need to separate the crisp stalks from the tender leaves. I learned that from Laura B. Russell’s excellent new book “Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables” . She cuts the leaves away from the stalks of baby bok choy, halves the stalks lengthwise, rubs them with butter and grills them until browned. While still warm, they reunite with the shredded leaves on a serving plate, helping to barely wilt the leaves.
Grilled Baby Bok Choy With Miso Butter
Keep the temperature moderate, so the miso butter will caramelize but not burn. A grill screen placed on the grill grate will help corral the bok choy stalks. White or yellow miso is recommended here; the darker the miso, the saltier it will be. Adapted from “Brassicas — Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More” by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, 2014).
6 heads (about 1 1/2 pounds total) baby bok choy (may substitute Shanghai bok choy)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (400 degrees) with the lid closed. If using a charcoal grill, light the briquettes; when ready, distribute them evenly over the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 to 6 seconds. Have ready a spray bottle for taming any flames. Brush the grill grate.
Cut the leaves off the bok choy stalks, then cut the stalks in half lengthwise. Rinse leaves and stalks well, then shake and pat dry to remove as much moisture as possible. Place the stalks in a large bowl.
Use a fork to blend the butter and miso in a small bowl, then use clean hands to coat the bok choy with the butter-miso mixture.
Arrange the stalks cut side down on the grill (or grill screen, if using). Close the lid and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden brown on the underside. Use tongs to flip the stalks. Close the lid and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until golden and crisp-tender.
While the stalks are on the grill, stack the bok choy leaves, then roll them tightly and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons. Arrange them on a serving platter. Drizzle with the oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with the salt and the 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
Arrange the grilled stalks on the dressed leaves, which will wilt a bit. Season the stalks lightly with pepper. Serve right away.
Per serving: 180 calories, 4 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 610 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar