Cruciferous vegetables – like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale and radish – are one of the dominant food crops worldwide. Today they are perhaps more popular than ever: not so much because people crave for vitamin A or C, soluble fiber and phytochemicals, but because modern scientific research shows that Brassica vegetable consumption correlates with lower cancer rates. There isn’t another food group that would match for nourishment across the variety of nutritional categories.
Although I’ve always eaten my “cole crops” with gusto, I became interested in their anti-estrogenic properties after battling with hormone imbalance for years. Estrogen is a fat-making hormone that, in excess, blocks fat-burning hormones needed for a healthy metabolism. As a result, every morsel of food (whether a carbohydrate, sugar, fat or protein) turns into a layer of lard around the belly, hips and tights to protect the organs underneath, especially the ovaries. The liver is a powerhouse through which all hormones are processed, and cruciferous vegetables – especially when eaten raw – help the liver to break down the chemicals, and to detoxify. Sulfur, which is ample in all cabbage family, plays a major role in this process.
Bok Choy or Chinese cabbage’s medicinal value was known to the Ming Dynasty naturalist Li Shizhen (1518 – 1593) who popularized it outside the Yangtze River Delta region, making it a Manchurian staple long before it spread to Japan and around the world.
Unlike regular cabbage, broccoli, mustard greens or rutabaga, bok choy has a very mild scent and flavor. It cooks in a couple of minutes which makes it an attractive alternative for those who can’t afford spending much time in the kitchen. If you make the paneer and clean the beans beforehand, my today’s recipe takes less than ten minutes to assemble.
Before you jump to the recipe, let me say that soy sauce (that I’ve used to boost the paneer) is high sodium food. Many brands that manufacture soy sauce or tamari in a non-traditional way enhance their product with table salt (NaCl) and monosodium glutamate (MSG) – two culprits that cause water retention and joint pain when consumed. Studies have shown that MSG triples the output of insulin, and
we all know what effect table salt has for blood pressure and cardiovascular health table salt has no nutritional value. Most boxed and canned foods, gravies, TV dinners and condiments are laced with them because they give that extra punch and make a meal taste just a little bit too good to be true. People who eat them regularly loose appetite for natural flavors found in whole foods.
I don’t generally promote any soy-derived products because they are too processed and heavy for my yogic lifestyle, but occasionally I use Bragg Amino Acids for the flavor. It is a seasoning made from non-GMO soy beans and purified water and is without added MSG, preservatives, coloring, alcohol, gluten or salt. If you would like to substitute it with soy sauce, you will have to adjust (probably lessen) the amount in the recipe.
On the side I’ve served beetroot yogurt: A little bit grated beets, yogurt, black pepper and Himalayan salt.
Bok Choy, spinach, broad beans and piquant paneer (serves 2 - 4)
For the broad beans:
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh broad beans (removed from the pods)
Boiling water for parboiling
For the tomato sauce:
1 red chili pepper (fresh), seeded
½ tsp jeera seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp Bragg liquid aminos
(Extra whey if needed)
For the paneer:
450 g/16 oz shortly pressed and diced paneer (from 3 liters/12 cups milk + 1 lemon)
2 Tbsp ghee, butter or oil
¼ tsp hing powder
(The tomato sauce from above)
½ tsp kala namak powder
For the greens:
1 large bok choy (coarsely chopped)
500 ml (2 cups) baby spinach
1 Tbsp ghee, butter or oil
A good pinch of hing powder
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
1 green chili, slit
½ tsp Himalayan salt
Prepare the beans first by parboiling them for a minute to loosen the exterior coating. Then drain and rinse them under cold water, and cut a slit on the outer layer and slip the bean out with your fingers. Discard the skins. Set the beans aside.
Make the tomato sauce by peeling the tomatoes and removing their stems. Combine the tomatoes with the chili and spices in an electric spice mill or food processor to make fine paste. Add the soy sauce and set aside.
Heat up the ghee, butter or oil in a non-stick skillet over a medium heat and add the hing powder. Toss it once or twice with a spatula, and add the paneer dices. Fry them, tossing and turning, until they are golden brown on all sides. Then pour in the tomato sauce. Let the paneer cook in the sauce until the sauce becomes very thick and dry, sticking to the paneer. If you want more sauce, add a little bit whey from cheese making to achieve the desired consistency. Finally, add the kala namak powder and turn off the heat.
While the paneer is cooking in the sauce, heat up 1 Tbsp ghee, butter or oil in another pan or pot. Add the hing powder, grated ginger and chili. Toss the mixture for 20 to 30 seconds with a spatula then add the chopped bok choy stems. Sauté them for a minute or two then add the chopped leaves and the spinach. Sauté the greens for a minute or two, and then add the broad beans and salt. Mix well, and then fold carefully in the tomato sauce infused paneer. Turn off the heat.