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Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Tatsoi. Sometimes we just need to talk about a vegetable because it’s fun to say. (Are we the only ones that feel this way?) We could say it all day, but the truth is, there are many other reasons to get this green into your regular rotation.
Before we start: you've almost certainly eaten tatsoi before. The mild, mustardy leaves often show up in mixed salad greens, so -- surprise! -- you're probably already acquainted. What's so great about this green? Once you track it down, (aliases include tat soy, tat soi, broadbeak mustard, spoon mustard, spinach mustard, and rosette bok choy), it'll quickly become one of the most versatile green vegetables you know. It's friendly with a number of cuisines and preparations, much like the rest of its brassica siblings.
What to Look For
Flower buds (1), especially when they are green and tightly closed, are crunchy and perfectly edible, but indicate that the plant has bolted. (This means the plant was focusing its energy on reproduction, so the edible parts of the plant may be a touch more bitter or a little tougher, depending on the vegetable.) If you're growing your own tatsoi, this is a sign to head out to the garden and harvest.
If you're at the market, you might want to pass on these in favor of a different, non-bolted bunch. Tatsoi leaves should be a deep glossy green (2) and free of any bruising, wilting, or yellowing. Aside from in salad mixes, you might find tatsoi at specialty grocers, but your best bet (as always) is to visit a farmers market. As a bonus, if you go to market, you could find a whole intact head of tatsoi; grown in cooler weather, tatsoi is stunningly beautiful and hugs the ground like a flat leafy rosette. In warmer weather tatsoi grows more upright (3) -- not as visually arresting, but just as tasty.
How to Store and Prep
You know the drill: wrap the leaves (4) in a damp paper towel, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Prepare fresh tatsoi by separating the leaves (if you found a whole head) and washing well.
How to Use Tatsoi
Tatsoi is a very versatile green, equally suited to being served raw or lightly cooked. To make it easy, just use tatsoi anywhere you’d use spinach. Lightly steam or sauté it, wilt the leaves with a warm dressing, or add them to a soup at the end of cooking. In Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, she lets tatsoi shine in a simple salad with scaliions, chives, and a sesame vinaigrette. Looking for more ways to use it? We thought you might be. Here are enough ideas to get you through the week:
Saturday: Meyer Lemon Risotto (Quick, sneak this one in before Meyer lemon season is over!)
Sunday: Borlotti Beans on Toast with Greens
Monday: Hot Smoked Salmon, Soba and Asian Greens Salad
Tuesday: Crisp Tofu with Asian Greens and Peanut Sauce
Wednesday: Halibut with Cashews, Tatsoi and Orange
Thursday: Steamed Spinach with Balsamic Butter (Here, just sub tatsoi for spinach.)
Friday: Tatsoi with Avocado and Egg
Photos by James Ransom