I'm looking for fresh and easy these days, and this side dish (or main dish if you add a protein source like tofu) fits the ticket. I'm also looking for more inspiration and that's why my first cookbook purchase of the year is Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison.
I want to linger over each section like a delicious dessert. Spinach happens to be in the Goosefoot and Amaranth families, along with beets, chard, epazote, lamb's quarters, and orach. I'll review it a little more extensively next week because it's one of those books that should be in every cook's kitchen.
And as for vegetables, most cooks have lots of greens in the refrigerator this time of year. You can find many varieties at markets, farm stores and grocery stores.
|Gathering Together Farm store|
|University District Farmers Market|
|Hearty spinach at Nash's organic farm|
Now to come up with something a little different, yet easy-to-make. If you seen this post and this one, you know, I'm fond of shiitaki mushrooms lately. Well, more than fond actually. They do amazing things for your immune system, plus the fresh shiitaki mushrooms from Sno-Valley Mushrooms at the market are so fresh and tasty, they're always on my market shopping for the market.
And of course they pair well with greens, so I had them on my list as well. I'm flexible about which greens, but when I saw the tiny spinach bundles at Nash's organic produce, I knew that's what I had to get.
A few years ago, I noticed farmers growing this small hearty variety of spinach in fall and winter. And since my weekly market budget is smaller these days, I felt like I hit a gold mine when I saw the fat bundles of hearty spinach. It was enough for two days, and since I like things simple, I got a Meyer lemon at a store on my way home.
I wanted to add these vegetables to brown rice, because from there, you can create a side or main dish. But brown rice takes about 50 minutes from start to finish. So start the rice first and by the time it's done, you have all the other ingredients ready and dinner is just a few minutes away. (If you're really pinched for time, use a quicker cooking rice or another grain.)
Try quinoa, millet or couscous for a faster dish.
The red peppers aren't really in season now, but the added color is a bonus, and you don't have to use much. I usually make red peppers go a little farther by dicing smaller and using them two or three days instead of just one. You could also use carrots instead of red pepper for color if you like. Also, if you don't have cashews, try pecans, almonds or pistashios.
Lemon-Spinach, Brown Rice, Mushrooms and Cashews
1 3/4 water
1 cup brown rice, rinsed
Pinch of salt
1 cup diced shiitaki mushrooms
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's Peppers (or use 1/4 teaspoon dried pepper flakes)
4 to 6 cups rinsed spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons apple cider
Zest of 1 fresh lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup toasted cashews
1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add brown rice and pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a second boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat. Wait 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
2. While rice cooks, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms. Stir and cook until mushrooms lose some moisture. Add red pepper and Mama Lil's peppers. Stir and cook until red pepper is soft.
3. Add spinach. Stir until spinach, mushrooms and peppers are blended. Add apple cider and cover until spinach wilts. Remove from heat. Remove cover and stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Garnish each serving with toasted cashews.
From side to main dish:
Add 6-ounces of precooked marinated tofu, or chunks of seitan right after stirring in the Mama Lil's peppers.