Giving Thanks to Tatsoi

My pal Ms. B. and her two kinder just stopped by for an early morning coffee and oatmeal cookie snack. In between feeding the baby and wrestling with Zoe, the little minx, over the magic markers, B. asked me what I had in mind for Thanksgiving.


Tatsoi, a produce beauty queen and my muse for Thanksgiving. (Kim O'Donnel)

Aside from my locally-raised turkey (due for pickup from Smith Meadows this Sunday at Columbia Pike Market) and a batch of apple sauce (or will it be cranberries?), I told her I was unsure about the rest of the feast.

"I need to get inspired," I said. "Perhaps when I go to market this weekend." And then I remembered the stunning rosettes of tatsoi I bought yesterday at Clarendon farm market, from Sunnyside Farms, in Washington, Va.

Although a member of the Brassica family, tatsoi (a.k.a. tai koo choi in Asian markets) cooks and tastes like spinach. Its ruffly green leaves are tender enough to eat raw and mild enough to take on all kinds of flavor personalities.

I love the idea of whipping up my Thanksgiving green veg in about five minutes, particularly with a warmed tangy mustard dressing (see details below) that will cut against the fat in all the other trimmings. The idea sounds so clean, so fresh and best of all, so easy.

If I can't get my hands on more of the beautiful Miss Tatsoi this weekend, my plan B will be a pot of slow-cooked collard or turnip greens.

Now, if only I could equally excited about a starch for sopping up gravy....

What has been your source of inspiration this week as you prep for Thanksgiving? Got a favorite veggie side dish to share? Do so in the comments area below.

Join me at 1 p.m. today for an hour of Thanksgiving-exclusive chitter chatter.


Tatsoi Wilted in Mustard Dressing
From "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini" by Elizabeth Schneider

Ingredients
About 1 pound tatsoi
2 scallions
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Method
Trim tatsoi bases to separate leaves. Rinse in several changes of water, inspecting for grit. Dry thoroughly.

Clean scallions and trim root. Separate lighter colored bulb and darker green tops. Mince bulbs and thinly slice greens. Mix bulbs with lemon juice, mustard and salt, stirring to dissolve salt. Blend in oil.

Pour dressing into a very wide skillet set over moderate heat. Add leaves and turn to coat with dressing (tongs are most efficient). Cook until leaves almost wilt but stems retain crunch, about 2 minutes. Add scallion greens and toss.

Arrange on a platter, lined up like asparagus. Pour any remaining dressing on top.

Makes four side-dish servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 16, 2006; 12:07 PM ET Fall Produce , Thanksgiving , Vegetarian/Vegan
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Comments

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Just saw tatsoi for the first time at the Baltimore Farmers Market, Sundays 7am-12pm, underneath 83(JFX), in downtown baltimore. I tried it and it's refreshing if not visually unique. It's great fresh!

Posted by: Baltimore Farmer's Market | November 16, 2006 1:11 PM

i'm partial to brussel sprouts sauteed up with pancetta. once lightly browned, put 1/4 water and cover to steam. once tender, add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. it's easy, pretty, and tangy!

Posted by: m | November 16, 2006 2:56 PM

I just cooked tatsoi for the first time the other night, not even knowing its name! I'd seen it at the Dupont Farmers Market for a while and just decided to buy it, intrigued by its beautiful shape that looks like a giant green flower. I made a simple pasta sauce with onions, mushrooms, dried cherries, pine nuts, stock, and wine and then just wilted the greens before adding the cooked linguine to the saute pan. Not bad for winging it with what I had on hand!

Last year I was going to make my favorite butternut squash soup but then I saw Mario Batali's recipe for oven roasted squash a scapece, i.e. finished with olive oil, red wine vinegar, thinly sliced red onions and mint. Utterly sublime! So then I saw the most beautiful cauliflower I'd ever seen at the farmers market and decided to make soup from it. It smelled so good while it was cooking and tasted so delicious that I can't wait to make it again this year! Seems like every year I "fall in love" with an old standby, whether brussel sprouts, broccoli, turnips, etc. Going to the Dupont Farmers Market has really made me appreciate fresh veggies like never before!

Posted by: Sean | November 16, 2006 4:00 PM

Hi Kim,

You mentioned in your chat on Thursday that you wrote an article on "Thanksgiving for One" for an Atlanta weekly. Any chance we'll get to see it?

Thanks!

Posted by: Thanksgiving for One? | November 17, 2006 10:07 AM

Hey solo flier:
The piece will be available Tuesday, I think. If you can't wait that long, let me know and I'll put together a list of menu ideas for you.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 17, 2006 10:17 AM

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