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Monday, September 16, 2013

MoFo 2013, day 16: Amaranth

This is where it gets confusing. I had posted a photo of cardoon and called it callaloo. A reader called callaloo amaranth. And it is, but the photo was not what it was.
THIS:


is amaranth aka cardoon in the Caribbean, but is also used in African, Sri Lankan, and Indian cooking. You can find it in Chinese markets as well (I wonder if, by yet another name, I saw it in the supermarket in Chinatown) and since I have primarily Chinese spices in the pantry, that was my go-to preparation.
Onions and garlic cooked in coconut oil (which has finally re-solidified after a summer of pure liquid!). Threw in cinnamon, ginger, and red pepper flakes to heat in the oil for a bit. Then, the washed leaves, chopped. I don't often chop greens before I cook them because they cook down so much anyway but I read that amaranth leaves are a bit tough once the plant has blossomed. I believe it is a little late in the season for amaranth, so it had, as you can see:

This seedhead is where the pseudo-grain we usually see sold as amaranth comes from. It's high in protein, whereas the leaves are rich in carotene, iron, calcium, protein, and Vitamin C.
The leaves weren't really tough when cooked, but they are definitely hardier than spinach. I'd say the texture and flavor is more like kale - more bitter than spinach but not as oxidized-tasting as beet greens. (Does that make sense? I like beet greens but I can taste the iron sometimes.)
Despite the name deriving from the Greek for "unfading flower," it was starting to wilt a bit already by today. So, although you can eat it raw, I cooked it so it would last longer.

                          All cooked down. It turned a bit greener, but it was still pretty purple.
Served, as I unimaginatively do with all Asian-y meals, with rice, soy sauce, and scallions:

Simple, really. I'm sure they'd be great no matter what you do to them but I think with the leftovers, I'd like to top them with curried red lentils and maybe stewed, gingery tomatoes for a more Indian-inspired dish.
Anyway, I really liked amaranth leaves (I keep wanting to call them greens but can't because they're purple! There are amaranth plants that produce green leaves, though, so maybe I'll call 'em greens anyway.) Spinach is my go-to green for salads but I don't like to cook with it because it turns into nothing! This was a large-ish bunch but I still had to cook it in two batches.
Next to tackle: cardoon!

23 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Cardoon! ToMorrow. Although Callaloo is another name for Amaranth in the Caribbean.

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  2. YAYY. This is totally the kind of thing I was thinking! It sound like the best thing ever with curried lentils. I have no clue what to do with cardoon, though. I don't think I've ever seen a cardoon, actually. INTERESTING STUFF.

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    1. Yeah, I realized today I don't actually have any curry! Gonna buy some tomorrow and EAT THAT.

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  3. i thought cardoons are what you watch on saturday mornings when you have a cold.

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  4. Wow! I totally learned something new from this! I always think simple is best the first time i try a new veggie. And your description totally makes sense to me. When i have spinach i put a colander of the fresh leaves in the sink and just pour boiling water over it, so it gets semi-wilty. I read somewhere that your body absorbs more nutrients from lightly cooked/wilty spinach than raw.....whatever. I just like it that way.
    Ttrockwood

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    1. Simple is definitely best at first. You can get a feel for what it will go well with.

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  5. Interesting. I've never cooked amaranth leaves or seeds. I have a bag of seeds waiting for me to figure out what to do with it. Do you know? The leaves look a little like chard now that they are cooked.

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    1. I think people put popped amaranth in granola, no?

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  6. There is no purple food that can be bad at all. Granted, that's because there's only about three of them (unless you include all that Willy Wonka shizz) but still, all good. That and a big bowl of lentils = heaven.

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  7. What a confusing but pretty purple plant. And I know exactly what you mean about beet greens!! That amaranth stuff does look lovely though, it's fun learning about new produce!

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    1. It is fun. I wish the farmers knew better what to do with them, though.

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  8. Wow, I never knew that amaranth grains came from greens, I mean purples! I love finding treasures in ethnic stores.

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    1. Yes, purples. I looove ethnic stores too! And vegetables are a safer bet than trying to read packaging in other languages.

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  9. Very interesting! Naturally my mind went to the grain when I saw amaranth but who knew it was a pretty purple plant?! The simple preparation sounds absolutely delicious and the plate looks lovely!

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    1. It's gorgeous, really. I want to grow it!

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  10. Whoa! I have never seen this before. It sounds so good. I will have to keep an eye out for it. What a great way to add a little more color to my diet!

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  11. Stir fried amaranth is one of my favorite dishes. Although I haven't seen the purple variety before, I get the kind that's green with streaks of red in it. I like it better than spinach. :-)

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    1. I saw pictures of that kind online. So nice.

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  12. I was expecting an Asian stir-fry dish with the amaranth - and I'm glad you made it! :)

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