Asian Amaranth Greens

standing in amaranth

yours truly standing in amaranth photo by vsimon

You have probably heard of amaranth seeds and flour as a healthy alternative to refined starches in the gluten free diet. But have you ever heard of amaranth greens?

A reader asked how to harvest amaranth seeds. I had no idea and took it as a suggestion to grow some in our garden. We ordered a mixed packet of seeds. This stuff is amazing. The tallest plants are now 8 feet tall, planted from seed just 10 weeks ago. The smallest are about 3 feet.

I am falling in love with the tasty versatility of this wonder plant.

It is too soon for seeds, though flowers are forming. In June, we enjoyed the young stalks with a distinct asparagus shape and flavor. The amaranth stalks are too woody to chew now in late July, even the small ones.

But the greens are delightful, a mild and mellow earthy greens flavor. And all of our amaranth have green leaves. I have seen pictures of red and green leaves that look like they are tie-dyed, ours are just plain green.

I leave the giant plants alone to produce seeds. And rummage through the patch for shorter stalks and smallish leaves.

They are sturdier than spinach and do not cook down quite as much. Still, two cups in the pan with yield only about 1/3 cup sautéed greens.

Nutrition

Amaranth is loaded with vitamin K. This is probably good for your bones.

But not so good for a consistent blood clotting time if you are on Coumadin. Unless you eat a cup of dark leafy greens every day.

Amaranth greens are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, calcium, potassium, and iron. In very few calories. And I could not find data on the fiber content, but I suspect the greens have some.

asian amaranth greens

Asian amaranth photo by vsimon

Asian Amaranth Greens

Yield: one serving (My husband is not a greens kinda guy).

You can double the recipe, using a very large sauté pan.

Ingredients metric measures
2 cups amaranth leaves 60 grams
1 teaspoon white rice vinegar 5 ml
1 teaspoon gluten free soy sauce 5 ml
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil 5 ml
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds less than 1 gram

Put the leaves, white rice vinegar, gluten free soy sauce, and sesame oil in a sauté pan.

Cook on high heat for just a few minutes, turning frequently with tongs.

Top with sesame seeds.

I encourage you to plant amaranth next year, either in your vegetable or your flower garden. You may know some decorative kinds as Joseph’s Coat and Love Lies Bleeding. I don’t know if these are edible, but it might be fun to nibble on the flower garden. You could also to forage for wild amaranth, called pigweed.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is a source for amaranth seeds to plant . Or you might try planting some seeds that you bought to eat. That would be the easiest way to get seeds for planting. Please let us know if to do this and how it worked.

This post will be submitted to the biweekly roundup of Grow Your Own, started by Andrea’s recipes blog. The end of July session is hosted by Amy I. of Playing House. If you grow your own, your latest creation is welcomed.

V is for Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette, a sauce made with vinegar. And often with oil, but not always. Wait a minute, is vinegar gluten free?

Mostly, yes.

vinegar (4a)

orange-vinaigrette  peanut-butter-vinaigrette and crystal-vinaigrette photo by vsimon

Distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and white rice vinegar are commonly available in the U.S. and gluten free.

Malt vinegar is made from barely, not distilled, and is not gluten free.

Tricia Thompson thoroughly reviews vinegar and gluten on her Living Gluten Free blog.

Vinegar Nutrition Science

Vinegar has two notable nutritional properties.

#1. Numerous scientific studies have shown that eating vinegar with high carbohydrate meals lowers blood sugar and insulin response after the meal.

So many gluten free products are loaded with highly refined starches. Switching to whole grains helps improve blood sugar. Maybe you have noticed that recipes posted here are likely to be whole grain. Simply adding vinegar to a meal also helps.

#2. You will feel full longer after a meal that contains vinegar. This can be important if you are trying to watch your weight and eat less.

Kinds of vinegar

Rice vinegar has the mildest flavor. You can buy it plain or seasoned. Sugar and salt are added to the seasoned variety. Plain white rice vinegar is the most useful, you can add sugar and salt as needed.

Golden hued apple cider vinegar tastes slight fruity.

Clear distilled white vinegar is a bit harsher in flavor, and is super inexpensive. The lack of color makes it versatile and other ingredients can mellow the flavor.

There are other vinegars worth trying too. Balsamic is dark, sweet and syrupy. Sherry vinegar is complex and potent, a little goes a long way. Both of these can be expensive, but worth it. Bottles of each are waiting in my fridge right now, to be splashed on garden veggies or to perk up a pan sauce.

Today we have three easy vinaigrettes to suit every taste. You can pass on the readymade stuff in the store. These take only minutes to make and cost just pennies. Adjust the recipes to your tastes. Feel free to substitute rice vinegar in any recipe where you want mild flavor. Or add more vinegar for a puckery zip.

Crystal Dressing

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar, Splenda or honey

¼ cup canola oil or walnut oil

In a small bowl, mix rice vinegar and sweetener. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the sugar (if using) can dissolve. Add the oil and stir briskly. This is really a treat with walnut oil if you can get it.

We originally used this with spinach salad that included berries, toasted whole almonds, and creamy goat cheese. We had a client who loved it so much he put it on everything, really everything. Maybe that is a bit much, but it does add a sodium free sweet-sour punch to salads, grains and veggies.

Orange Mustard Salad Dressing

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home by Deborah Madison

1/3 cup orange juice concentrate

3-4 tablespoons vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Mix it up. You can add oil if you like more calories.

There is always a supply of OJ concentrate in our freezer. It is easy to scoop out only what you need, put the lid back on it and tuck it back into the freezer.

Top mixed grain and veggie salads with this bright tangy dressing. For example, add Orange Mustard Salad dressing to a mix of quinoa, sweet yellow pepper, shredded carrot and thin sliced red onions.

Peanut Butter Dressing

¼ cup sugar, Splenda, or honey

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons peanut butter

Mix it up. I like to do this in a mini blender, it is a bit quicker and smoother. If you are doing it by hand, hot water helps the peanut butter mix in.

This also thickens slightly when it is stored in the fridge. Make it ahead and it will be the right temperature and consistency.

Kids (and adults) love this on greens with sliced apples and chopped peanuts.

Do you make your own dressings? Or pickles? Please share your favorite uses for vinegar.

T is for Teff

Teff is teeny tiny. Just the size of the period at the end of this sentence. It is dark brown and can be used as a whole seed, or ground into flour.

Teff is a staple in Africa where the flour is used to make Injera, the sour dough bread of Ethiopia. Injera is really like a giant pancake. Meals are served on platters layered with the thin spongy bread, topped with many mixed dishes. Diners tear off bits of Injera by hand, fill them with food, then tuck into their mouth. No utensils needed.

Be sure to try Injera when it is offered in a restaurant, if you can make sure it is gluten free. In the states, it may be made with a combo of teff and wheat flour. So you must ask and be comfortable with the answer.

I love the tang of Injera and have tried making it at home. But I have trouble with sour dough starters. There may be truth to the adage the some areas just have better (sour dough) culture than others.

Nutrition

Teff provides thiamin, niacin, B6 and folate, iron, some calcium, and fiber. Nutrients often missing in the usual gluten free diet.

What can I do with the whole seed?

Using whole seed, you can make breakfast porridge. I have successfully used the stovetop, my pressure cooker, and a crock-pot for this.

teff (3)s

teff-porridge-with-hazelnuts-and-raspberries photo by vsimon

Crock-pot Teff Porridge

serves 3-4                    metric measures

1/2 cup teff seeds         90 grams

1 1/2 cup water           360 ml

Put seeds and water into a 4 cup crock pot. Cook for 3 hours. Stir porridge and add another cup of water (240 ml) if you prefer it thinner.

Cooked teff firms up a lot when it cools. Your leftovers will solidify. Simply break it up, stir, and press with the back of a spoon to remove the little lumps. You will end up with the lovely results pictured.

You could easily double this recipe, and it might take longer to cook. Crock-pots come in many sizes and some have high and low settings. Be sure to do a test run in your crock-pot during the day, before leaving it alone overnight. If it works, you can have a hearty breakfast waiting for you when you stumble out of bed.

You can also make teff polenta, a different color polenta. Serve right away for soft polenta. Or spread into a shallow pan and allow to firm. Then slice and grill for a crispy crust. Corn polenta is still my favorite though.

What can I do with the flour?

There are more ways to use teff flour than the whole seeds. Sometimes, I like to play off the dark color and pair teff with bright or light colored ingredients. Picture peach crunch with teff and sliced almond topping. Tempting, yes?

teff peach crunch5a

teff-peach-crunch photo by vsimon

But teff is also perfect for naturally dark treats like gingerbread or mock rye bread.

And I think teff and cocoa also make a great combo, say in a waffle. Or a peanut butter filled chocolate muffin. What is not better with chocolate, right?

See some recipes you may like using  just teff flour, no combos of flours.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Date Nut Coffee Quick Bread

How do you use teff seeds or flour? What recipes would you like?

A little rant

I love experimenting with unusual ingredients. And using whole grains. I do not love having to mail order ingredients, even though I know this is a great service for getting gluten free ingredients. The local grocery store used to carry teff flour. But they have expanded the gluten free aisle and added the new Betty Crocker mixes.

My fears are being realized. More room for mainstream gluten free mixes (read refined starches, poor nutrition). Less room for healthy whole grains.

Recipe development using healthy ingredients is what I do. And, teaching others how to cook this way. You can make tempting treats with whole grain flours. Please ask your grocer to carry wholegrain gluten free flours, not just mixes. Vote with your purchases. The store will carry what sells.

teff (2a)

teff-seeds photo by vsimon

Growing teff

We planted several gluten free grains in our garden, including teff. It is growing slowly, and looks like slender arching blades of grass. Now the leaves are two to three feet long. It is too soon to tell if we will get seeds. We will keep you posted this fall.

Click here for an update our garden teff.