Do you have a favorite farmer at your market? Sure, I buy stuff from 3-4 farms, but there is one that is particularly near and dear to my heart: Hmong Farms from Lunenburg, MA. The farmer who comes to the market doesn't speak any English, but his produce speaks for itself. It's just beautiful. And what's so cool is that he grows some unusual crops. I am still dreaming about a huge bunch of absolutely stunning sorrel I got from him last year.
The problem is that I don't always know exactly what I am buying, which poses a bit of a problem if I want to tell you about it. At the last farmers' market, I saw a bundle of the most beautiful purple tinged leaves. I was sure they'd be good tossed in a hot skillet with a little garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. But what are they called? I felt like my 3 year old daughter, who can't rest until she finds out what something is called. It doesn't really matter if you tell her that something is Winnie the Pooh, an immersion circulator, or a USB port. The important thing is that it has a name. As soon as we tell Sammy what something is called, she breaths a sigh of relief and says "Oh, I see -- immersion circulator," as if she knew it all along, but just needed a reminder.
I asked the farmer what the purple green leaves were. He pointed me at the sign that said "$2.50." I started asking other shoppers, but none of the Americans could help me. Finally, one Chinese woman said, she knew what it was in Chinese, but not in English. Eventually, the farmer understood that I wanted to find out the name and gave me a piece of paper with a recipe for Amaranth. "But isn't this other one Amaranth?" I asked him pointed to a different leafy green? He pointed to the purple one and said "This too." When I got home and googled for Amaranth, I found out that its leaves can come in different colors (kind of like Swiss Chard).
How to clean and prep Amaranth
Remove and discard stems. Wash and dry the leaves in a salad spinner. If not using right away, wrap in a dry towel, place in a plastic bag, seal, and store in the fridge until needed. If it is in good shape, it will last as long as a week.
How to cook Amaranth
Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp canola oil (or fat of your choice). When hot, add 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 tsp minced ginger. Cook until aromatic, but not colored, 15-30 seconds. Add a large bunch of amaranth leaves and cook stirring with tongs until wilted. If they don't all fit in the skillet right away, wait for some leaves to wilt before adding more. Season with soy sauce or salt to taste and serve.
Another idea is to use amaranth leaves as wrappers. Since the leaves are large and thin, they work great for quick cooking proteins, like small pieces of marinated skirt steak or fish. You'll need wooden toothpicks to hold these bundles together. Rub the outside with a little canola oil and grill or pan sear. Goes really well with a dipping sauce of lime juice, ginger, garlic, soy, and chillies. Since this is a somewhat labor intensive preparation, it's best to serve it as an appetizer.