Sunday, December 04, 2011

Veggies of Darkness

Nightshade vegetables grow in the deep shadows of obstructed moonlight. I admit I haven't read Heart of Darkness. I used to love the one-hit wonder song by the Darkness. Now that my free association declarative sentences are out of the way, let's venture a question: what's so shady about nightshades?

Nightshades are chock full of alkaloids, which distinguish this food family (whose father is the Dark Lord of the Sith) from others on the block. This quirky kin clan includes: peppers, eggplant, tomato, potatoes, paprika, tobacco, and more (lotsa infos there).

Nightshades are my etymology QoftheDay. Taken from the OED (Online Etymology Dictionary):

"O.E. nihtscada, lit. "shade of night," perhaps in allusion to the poisonous berries. A common Germanic compound, cf. Du. nachtschade, Ger. Nachtschatten." 

Nightshadess I may be (since I am female who enjoys nightshade society), but alkaloids fail to settle well with many a tummy. Also, many a nerve and many a joint may be suffering. Generally speaking, nightshades don't upset too many an organ unless one takes a doozy of a dose. Rule of thumb (or paring knife, potato peeler, whatever): slyly slice the offending extra alkaloid-rich greeneries protruding from your potatoes and green tomatoes (find the best nightshade site I found here). 

Nighshadessness has overtaken me 2 nights this past week. Below you will find 2 adventures into the dark, seedy, and nutty underbelly of vegan cuisine. Will you dare to delve into the depths, swim toward the dancing light, and surface with 1 of these dishes, the pot's handle gripped in your jaws of hunger?

Nightshadelessness is not an option. Emerge from the deep sea (or woods, mountains, whatever) with a dinner. No one wants to see you arrive empty-mouthed.

Saffron Spinach with Macadamia Nuts (gf&vegan)


1 package frozen spinach (16 oz. bag from Trader Joe's)
2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon oil (I used grapeseed)
handful chopped pepper
handful roasted salted macadamia nuts
1 generous pinchful of saffron
1/4 teaspoon pink salt

First put the oil, garlic, and onions in a saucepan over medium heat. Let sizzle and stir them about until they start to brown. Then add frozen spinach. Keep stirring and cooking it together. Once spinach is no longer frozen, stir in pepper, macadamia nuts, saffron, and salt. Cook for about another five minutes to infuse the saffron into the dish, then serve!

Tomatoed Chickpeas with Sesame Seeds (gf&vegan)

1 can of chopped organic tomatoes (15 oz.)
1 can of organic chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans, 15 oz. I'd say any bean would do if you don't have chickpeas on hand.)
the top ends of a leek, chopped (I saved the bottom half for another meal. Just make sure to wash the tops well since they can be a bit dirt-laden.)
3 small heads of bok choy, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
handful chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup sesame seeds (I recommend very slightly toasting them beforehand since I found it difficult to get them toasty in with the leeks)
3 shakes of cayenne pepper (shy of 1/8 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon pink salt
1 Tablespoon oil (I used olive oil)

(Echo, echo of the directions above a bit. . .)
First put the oil, garlic, and leeks in a fry pan over medium heat. After 3 minutes add the bok choy and sesame seeds. Let sizzle and stir them about until the garlic starts to brown and the bok choy is wilting.

At the same time, have the can of tomatoes and the chickpeas in a saucepan. Let simmer (and keep stirring every minute or so) over medium heat while you vigilantly watch the oil-leek-bok choy-garlic-sesame sauté. Once the oil-leek-bok choy-garlic-sesame sauté is beginning to brown, add the sauté to the tomato-chickpea stew. At this point, stir in the cayenne pepper and salt Cook for about another five minutes, then serve!

In almost no time, you'll have a dark side dinner to mwahahaha over with the fam'!

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