Saturday, January 1, 2011
The Michihili Challenge
Michihili is one of a number of cylindrical-shaped Chinese cabbage types. But wait! It doesn't taste anything like cabbage (to me) and its beautiful greens are worth getting acquainted with. We have been harvesting michihili greens in The Garden for weeks
and I’ve been hurriedly cooking it and having continuous issues with stringy, uncooked and un-chewable parts. I recently took the time to slow down and to think it out (duh…) and now can tell you how it can be cooked with great results! The bottom line is that the leaves have to be totally stripped from the stems before cooking, and the stems have to be mostly cooked before the leaves even start cooking.
These greens are much easier to handle if they are not wet so I don’t rinse this veggie until the separation of leaf from stem has taken place. I will, however, shake out any obvious signs of garden dirt before I get started. Since I know these veggies are grown in an organic setting and are fresh from our garden, I don’t worry about “manhandling” germs being present. Besides, the leaves will wash much cleaner minus stems and they are robust enough to tolerate a good strong swishing later on to remove any remaining dirt particles.
Starting at the stem end of the leaf, quickly strip the leaf away from the stem with your fingers. This method is much faster than a knife. Keep the stems in a separate place from the leaves as you strip. You cannot fail if you understand and follow this one rule: You can leave parts of the leaf with a stem but don’t leave any sizeable part of the stem with a leaf because the stem takes longer to cook than the leaf and the result may be un-chewable. When I prepped a large batch of these greens for cooking yesterday afternoon, I stripped the leaves, and then bagged the stems and leaves separately for the fridge. I left them unwashed until I was ready to cook them.
Washing: Wash and chop the stems into bite size strips or leave them whole. Vigorously soak, wash and shred the leaves.
Cooking: Prepare a large deep fry pan for braising with about a half inch of water, adding a little kosher salt. Add the stems and bring them to a boil. Cook stems on med-high or high heat for about 5 – 8 minutes, keeping the pan covered until stems are tender enough for your taste and making sure the water isn't boiling away. If so, add more water before that happens and bring it back to a boil. Just a gentle reminder from a recent experience: It is never wise to leave the kitchen when a burner is running above medium heat. Next, add the leaves and cook another 5 – 7 minutes depending on desired texture. Serve pretty quick so the michihili does not continue to cook.
You can’t lose with this method of cooking michihili and the result will be a fresh new plate of greens to complement any dish. We recently ate michihili as a side vegetable with beef bourguignon and it greatly complemented the rich wine sauce and baby portobellos. Imagine how good it will be with fish… or even solo for lunch (ooooh maybe with a little cottage cheese on the side)!