Spring vegetable braise with amaranth and brown rice
POSTED ON April 30, 2010
The garlicky verdant scent of ramps filled my kitchen as I began cooking this spring braise, bringing back memories of the exciting first weeks of spring and crisp mornings at the farmers market.
Also called wild leeks, ramps are foraged along most of the east coast all the way to Canada. Their arrival is always celebrated in New York not only for their unique flavor, which reminds me of a damp lush forest but also because they’re the first green vegetable that we see at the market after a long winter of stored roots.
Being a member of the onion family, they are rich in sulfur, which helps clean the arteries, fight viruses and purify the body after winter.
I served this braise with a delicious fragrant amaranth and rice blend. The amaranth adds just the right amount of stickiness to the rice and a welcome earthy sweetness that compliments the vegetables perfectly. Once a sacred food of the Aztecs, amaranth has a similar nutritional profile to quinoa – high in protein, calcium and amino acids, especially lysine.
Putting amaranth in a bowl to soak reminded me of how much I love this grain, there will be more recipes featuring it to follow.
A couple of notes; I think this braise would be delicious served with a soft corn polenta, too, and if I had seen nettles at the market they would be a great addition to the spring theme.
Amaranth and brown rice blend
1 cup short grain brown rice
¼ cup amaranth
2 cups filtered water
Pinch sea salt
Wash the rice and amaranth in several changes of cold water. Use a fine mesh strainer to drain.
Put grains in a bowl, cover with an inch of filtered water and soak 4 to 6 hours or overnight. Drain well and rinse again. Place in a pot, add water and salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
Remove from heat and allow to sit covered for 10 minutes. Store any left over grain in the fridge and steam to reheat.
Spring vegetable braise
1 pound fava beans, shelled
1 bunch ramps, or 1 medium leek
2 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ pound asparagus, sliced in 1 inch pieces
Chives to garnish
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add shelled fava beans and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and slip off their outer skin, compost skins and set the fava beans aside.
Cut off the roots of the ramps; slice the white part into 1/2 inch pieces and the greens into 2 inch pieces, keeping them separate.
In a large skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat, add the white stems of the ramps (if you’re using a leek add it all now) and a pinch of salt and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the shitake mushrooms and continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes more.
Stir in asparagus and ramp greens. Pour 2 tablespoons of water over vegetables and cover for 2 minutes. Remove lid and stir, cook until asparagus is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve place about a cup of vegetables on each plate, spread out a little. Top with grain using a half cup measure as a mould. Garnish with chives and drizzle with flax oil.
Serves 3 to 4.