These last weeks in Knoxville have been an emphatic reminder than spring brings as much cool rain as it does sunny afternoons. And so when the first Saturday Market Square Farmers' Market opened on a gray, chilled morning, the pretty adorable head of bok choy we picked up there was headed for a dish that felt substantial and warming. Keeping it simple and reliable, this stuffed bok choy opens to reveal a mound of salty, meaty mushrooms and a smattering of crunchy cashews. All the comfort of Asian lettuce wraps in a stunning presentation. (And unlike lettuce wraps, this knife-and-fork dish can be served worry-free on first dates.)
A note on serving: The amount of time it takes the bok choy to finish in the oven is exactly the amount of time it takes to whip up a batch of miso soup with plenty of cubed tofu and any other garnishes you have on hand, turning this into a protein-rich meal for two.
Bok Choy Stuffed with Two Mushrooms and Cashews
1/2 ounce dried black morel mushrooms (or other dried mushroom)
1 head bok choy (generous 1/2 lb total weight)
8 oz button mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1 TBSP sesame oil, plus more for baking
1 TBSP low-sodium tamari
1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
several dashes red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup unsalted cashews, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350.
Place the morels in a bowl, pour hot water over them, and cover loosely with a towel. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash the bok choy, pat dry, and set aside to let dry totally.
Clean the button mushrooms with a slightly damp towel and discard any tough stems. Slice the mushrooms very thinly and mince the garlic.
When the morels are ready, drain them thoroughly (reserving the soaking liquid for soup, straining it before using to remove any bits of dirt), and chop roughly.
Heat the 1 TBSP sesame oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for just a minute, until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook until they have released all their water, 3-5 minutes. Add the tamari, vinegar, red pepper, morels, and cashews. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, another 3 minutes (the mixture will still be moist, but there shouldn't be liquid left in the pan). Remove from heat.
Holding the bok choy in one hand so that the outer leaves create a container, spoon the mushroom mixture into the center. Gather the top of the leaves together and gently lay into a lightly oiled roasting pan. Drizzle an additional teaspoon or two of sesame oil over the bok choy and cook for 20 minutes. The top outer leaves will be a bit crispy and the stalks will be a vibrant green.