Farmers Market Indian Lunch


Lamb’s quarters is one of those pesky plants farmers have been trying to eradicate since the beginning of industrial farming.  Probably used as a potted plant in the Victorian era, the edible plant commonly sprints in sidewalks and gardens.  It was only a few years ago that I started seeing it sold at farmers markets.  Up to that point it was used as a tender spinach-like vegetable in traditional foods around the world by herbalists, wild-crafters and foragers.

My first  encounter with lamb’s quarters was in 1971 during a trip to Crete where my aunt was using it in place of spinach in Spanikoptia and in her delicious horta (boiled greens).  I immediately fell in love with the buttery texture of the leaves and looked for it in markets for years afterward.  The next time it was on my plate, a banana leaf plate at that, was in rural India at my friends Pranava and Vanamali’s home.  She had made an unforgettable spinach-style dish using it.  Eventually, I began seeing it in farm stalls at local markets and began using it extensively in rice, sags, shaks, palaks, savories, raitas, breads and dahls.

Two types of Lamb’s quarters are usually sold at the farmers markets; the first is a green variety which farmers routinely treat as weeds and the second is Magenta Spreen, originally from India and often found in heirloom seed catalogs.  They can be found at the markets near the amaranth, red orach and kale.  I have been buying it in San Diego from Suzies Farm, mostly at the Hillcrest Farmers Market and the Little Italy Mercato.  It is best to purchase certified organic because the lamb’s quarters the normally very positive nutrient absorption in this plant makes it a repository for chemicals and toxins leached from the soil.

 

Last week, I was inspired to create an Indian-style dinner with my Hillcrest Farmers Market bounty of vegetables and grains.  The menu included the  Bolivian Red Quinoa I had purchased from Michelle at Conscious Cookery,  Lamb’s Quarters and Coconut Subji and Asparagus, Carrot and Red Onion Curry–there were no left-overs!

Bolivian Red Quinoa

2 cups water
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 two-inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup Bolivian red quinoa, rinsed

In a 2 quart sauce pan on medium-high heat, cook water, oil, bay leaf, turmeric, cinnamon and sea salt until the water boils. Add the quinoa, bring to a boil, then turn down to a low simmer and cover.  Cook for 15 minutes, turn off the heat and reserve until ready to serve.

I wash the lambsquarters, carefully removing the larger stems.  Then peel the white spring onions assemble the remaining ingredients. One of the secrets for preparing Indian food is to assemble all the ingredients in little bowls and plates in order to cook with proper timing and technique. This subji has a buttery texture which is accentuated with the delicate crunch of cashew nuts.  Its enchanting mild flavor and texture wonderfully compliments the red quinoa.

 

Lamb’s Quarters and Coconut Subji

2 teaspoons coconut oil
½  teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ginger root, minced
1 teaspoon green chile, minced
1 cup spring onions, chopped
1 cup raw whole cashews
4 cups lamb’s quarters, stemmed
1 ½ tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup organic coconut milk

Heat oil in saute pan on medium-high heat.   Add mustard and cumin seeds and cook until the mustard seeds start to pop.  Stir in ginger root and chile, then add the onions and cover.  After 30 seconds, stir in the cashews and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the lamb’s quarters, lime juice and salt, cover and turn heat to low.  Cook until the lambs quarters are tender then add the coconut milk and cook for another minute.  Serve hot.

This week, Sage Mountain Farm had beautiful fresh asparagus, heirloom multi-colored carrots and sweet spring onions. Asparagus is another springtime super food.  With so many micro-nutrient infused foods available at this time of year, it is a boost Mother Nature gives us to re-energize the body after the winter dormancy.  This dish is full of color and beautifully enhanced by the energizing spices. Served with the Red Quinoa and Lamb’s quarters and Coconut Subji, it adds color and flavor to the meal.  Both dishes have onions, but they are different, stimulating and very mild this time of year.

Asparagus, Carrot and Red Onion Curry

1 teaspoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon ginger root, minced
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 ½ cups red spring onions, diced
2 cups carrots, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups asparagus cut into 2 inch sections
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped 

In a 12 inch skillet on medium high heat, cook the oil and cumin seeds until they start to brown.  Add the red pepper, ginger root, turmeric, onions, carrots and curry then turn down to low heat and cover.  After 30 seconds, add the water.  Cook for 5 minutes until the water is cooked out.  Add the lemon, asparagus and sea salt then cover and cook for another 5 minutes until the asparagus is tender.   Add cilantro and serve right away.

 

 

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