Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Giddy Over This Sweet Soy Glaze

...on Grilled Bok Choy.

We're grilling' and chilling' this week, cooking outside as we relax and enjoy the late summer sunshine and warm weather. The old charcoal grill hasn't seen much action since we switched allegiance to a newer gas grill, but it's large surface was perfect to hold three wide pork chops and some large bok choy. (Hah! autospellcheck really wanted to substitute "book toy" for bok choy... more than once.)

Baby bok choy had been the lead item on my produce shopping list, but our local grocery didn't have any. None. Not one. How can you not stock that cute little Asian cabbage in Seattle, a city with a significant Asian population?! I settled for the larger variety of bok choy... much larger, in fact. Now what? Grilled bok choy by itself didn't hold much flavor appeal, but oh! my! the many sauces and glazes I found online were beyond tempting. Which one to try?

I went with a Kenjii Lopez-Alt recipe found on SeriousEats: Grilled Bok Choy with Sweet Soy Glaze. Kenjii's recipes never disappoint, and his accompanying posts typically include interesting factoids and/or useful tutorials. The posted version called for baby bok choy, but the size difference didn't seem to matter. Preparation was simple and the usual veggie grilling steps applied:
  • slice lengthwise
  • lightly coat with oil, 
  • season, at least with salt and pepper,
  • grill until char marks appear and veggies soften
Results? That soy/sake/seasonings reduction would make cardboard taste terrific... ok, that might be a slight exaggeration but it was amazingly better than anticipated considering the simple ingredient list. The ginger and soy flavors were strongly taste forward; sweet, but not cloyingly sweet. Asian in character, but easy to adapt and substitute ingredients to adjust to individual taste preferences. Myself, I'm a huge fan of the original, though a hint of anise does sound intriguingly tempting.

The glaze was intended for the bok choy, but we slathered it onto the grilled Asian-marinated pork chops, drizzled it over Jasmine brown rice, and even slurped some off spoons. Jars of this reduction will become a standard go-to item, stored on a fridge shelf and ready for action throughout the weeks to come. You really need to try it. Soon. As for the big bok choy, I can recommend grilling it... just as long as you have a flavorful, assertive Asian sauce to drizzle over its charred surface. 

Grilled Bok Choy with a Sweet Soy Glaze
recipe from SeriousEats (link)

For the Glaze

Use a 1:2:2 ratio of soy sauce, sake, and white sugar
   For example: 
        1/2 cup lite soy sauce
     1 cup sake (or dry vermouth, dry sherry or mirin)
     1 cup sugar (use less sugar if you substitute mirin for the sake)

1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, chopped into coins
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 scallions, green and white parts, chopped

bok choy, cleaned, dried, and split in half lengthwise
olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine the glaze ingredients, soy sauce through scallions, in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat; stir until the sugar dissolves. Then lower the heat and cook at a low simmer until the sauce is syrupy and reduced to about 1/2 cup. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Discard the ginger; set aside. 
  2. Prepare the grill, heating the charcoal until it is covered in gray ash. Rearrange the briquets so one end of the grill is hotter than the other. 
  3. Brush the cut bok choy with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on the hot end of the grill and cook briefly to lightly char. Turn over and cook until second side is charred. Move to the cooler end of the grill; cover and continue cooking for several minutes until the bok choy is softened but still offers a light crisp bite, roughly 1 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a large plate; either drizzle with the sauce or pour the sauce into a small pitcher and serve alongside.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dining In, Dining Out

Dining In...

Every year it seems the end of the cruise arrives too soon. We still have unexplored territory to investigate, wildlife to photograph, seafood to catch... Nevertheless, I appreciate having some final days/weeks in town at the dock. Tied up in our usual winter moorage slip we have time to clean and reorganize the boat, time to work on several of the smaller boat projects that remain on the never-ending To-Do List, and time to grab a few hours here and there to relax and visit with local friends. It's an enjoyable way to transition between life afloat and life ashore.

Dockside socializing is more about connecting with people and less about fussing over food, so this week I relied on some favorite old recipes choosing familiar dishes that are easy to prepare and tasty enough to garner a few compliments for the cook, but don't require spending long hours in a hot galley during hot summer weather. Win! The meals were good, and reconnecting with friends was a welcome treat. 

Warm Summer Night Menu for an early dinner aboard

Guacamole and Lime Tortilla Chips (no photo)

Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

Greens with Potato Salad

and Fresh Corn Kernels with Butter, Lime, Parmesan and Basil Shreds (no photo yet)

Broiled Nutty Nectarines with Greek Yogurt

Friends are always welcome aboard, not just at dinnertime. Friend G occasionally joins us for breakfast, arriving by boat for coffee and sourdough pancakes before heading uphill to the office. Last week I changed up the menu and served a couple of my non-traditional favorites. Dessert for breakfast? why not when it's fruit? Cheese grits and sausage? Mmmmm, I love cheese grits for any meal!

Weekday Early-Morning Breakfast

Dining Out...

We often meet J and D at a local restaurant to celebrate summer birthdays and anniversaries. For years a local sushi spot drew us for every occasion, but now we head to Imagine Thai Food for special events... or any time we crave amazingly good Thai food. We have relished every dish we have tasted so far, and enjoy visiting with the husband-and-wife team that operate this small gem of a restaurant. Impeccably fresh ingredients, sauces made in-house, layers of flavor accented with a zing of heat, each dish beautifully plated - what's not to love?! Most recently we ordered...

Choo Chee Goong
Stir fried prawns, in a red curry coconut milk sauce, carrots, green beans, peas, bell peppers & served with rice. 

Pad Thai Goong
Stir fry rice noodles in a tamarind sauce, with chicken, prawns, tofu, egg, bean sprouts, chives, herbs, lemon & crushed peanuts. 

Thai Ice Tea and Singha beer

...and the dessert that was so tempting that we ate it all before I thought to take any photos. Yes, it was that good!

 Guay Tord Ice Cream (no photo)
Deep fried bananas & coconut, topped with vanilla ice cream and covered with home-made caramel & toasted coconut. 

Now it's time to get creative with family meals and use up more of the fresh ingredients I can't take back across the border into the U.S. Meals are often... interesting... at the end of a cruise.

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