One of my favorite amaranth varieties is red orach, also known as garden orach, French spinach and mountain spinach. Red orach was first documented in the New World in 1714 and Thomas Jefferson grew a green variety in his Monticello gardens. It was discovered as far back as Mesolithic times and was commonly grown in the Mediterranean before spinach became popular; the red and green varieties were used to color pastas in Italy due to natural color retention. A member of the salt-bush family, the tender leaves have a light salty flavor which combines nicely with sorrel’s lemony flavor. The over-sized leaves and colorful presence make orach a favored annual in ornamental gardens.
In San Diego, I first began seeing Red orach in the La Milpa Organica booth at the Hillcrest Farmers Market a few years ago. Farmer Barry Logan specialized in ancient greens and heirloom vegetable varieties which made his stall the organic anchor of the market. While La Milpa is no longer operating, the influence lives on. Suzie’s Farm is growing many of the varieties Barry used to sell and I was pleasantly surprised to see red orach a couple of weeks ago and began using it in salads, greens, tarts, pastries and, of course, stuffed dishes. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of cooking red orach, have no fear–it’s easy to work with. If you can’t find it at your local market, request it, talk your local farmer into growing it and/or plant it in your garden as a culinary ornamental.
Stuffed Red Orach with Pomegranate Molasses
10 large red orach leaves
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, cooked
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, cooked
1 tablespoon green onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix garbanzos, artichoke, green onion, sea salt and oil in a food processor and process to a coarse paste. Place a generous tablespoon of filling on the wide end of a leaf and roll into a thick cigar shape. Repeat until all leaves are used.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons white spring onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
Place a ten-inch skillet on medium-high heat and cook the oil, crushed red pepper, onions and garlic until the onions are clear around the edges. Placed the red orach rolls in the pan, cover and let sear for 1 minute. Pour in the lemon juice, cover, turn down heat to low and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn the burner off and leave covered until ready to serve.
2 cups fresh pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice
Place a skillet on medium heat, add all ingredients and reduce to a syrup consistency. Allow to cool before using. May be prepared ahead of time to use as a condiment.
Drizzle Pomegranate Molasses onto plate and place a red orach roll on top. Serve hot.
To simplify the cooking process and make it a quick dish, use Eden Foods organic canned garbanzo beans and organic canned artichoke hearts.
I use fresh pressed organic pomegranate juice from Lone Oak Ranch but the recipe will be fine with bottled 100% pomegranate juice.