Until very recently, I had a pretty strong opposition to veggies. It's not that I didn't believe in their healthful goodness or Michael Pollan's truism "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." It had more to do with the fact that a plate of salad, no matter how gussied up and disguised, bored me to tears. I would think to myself: Who in their right mind would order a bunch of lettuce leaves and sprouts when they could have a juicy rare steak instead? Or a golden roast chicken! Or gorgeous seared fish! I didn't put much thought into the concept of being good to your body. My logic system went something along the lines of "Life is short. Enjoy it."
And then, something just changed. It started when I got my wisdom teeth extracted and was thus rendered incapable of eating solid foods for a good two weeks. I subsisted on liquid soups and yogurts and not only did I shed some pounds, I started to feel lighter, happier, more in tune with myself. And then, I happened to read a couple of books on food--namely Alicia Silverstone's "The Kind Diet" and Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals," and both had significant effects on me. The bottom line was this: Eating meat, poultry, even fish, is bad for you, bad for the earth, and unthinkably cruel to the animal you're eating. The amount of pain and suffering these creatures endure every single day of their lives is shocking and brutal. And completely unnecessary. Anyway, I haven't gone vegan completely, but I've reduced my meat/poultry intake to about once a month. The rest of the time, I focus my meals mostly on plants and whole grains with the occasional serving of fish thrown in. And you know what? I love it. I'm happier for it, and I have the proud, heretofore unknown feeling of making a conscious effort to take care of myself.
This newfound way of eating has launched a new way of cooking also, with a concentration in making veggies taste as good as humanly possible. Here's a recipe for simple bok choy that I whipped up for dinner last week. It's easy-as-pie to make, deliciously savory, and healthful. Perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
Baby Bok Choy with Garlic
1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic (about 8 cloves)
2 pounds baby or Shanghai bok choy, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
Stir together broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until cornstarch has dissolved.
Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly. Pour peanut oil down side of wok, then swirl oil, tilting wok to coat side. Add garlic and stir-fry until pale golden, 5 to 10 seconds. Add half of bok choy and stir-fry until leaves wilt, about 2 minutes, then add remaining bok choy and stir-fry until all leaves are bright green and limp, 2 to 3 minutes total. Stir broth mixture, then pour into wok and stir-fry 15 seconds. Cover with lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in sesame oil, then transfer to a serving dish.