One of the things I love most about cooking is that breaking the rules is almost always a good thing. In life this is true about 51% of the time, but in cooking it goes up to 90%.
Take root vegetables. Due to the wonders of ancient technology (like cold storage), you can still find root vegetables in May – tugged from the earth’s embrace in October, preserved all winter long. I like hearty vegs in springtime when everyone else has turned their back and moved on to salads.
I am also a fan of skipping the roasting part of roasted vegetables and “roasting” them on the stove top instead. You get the same results in 10 minutes that would normally take 45. (Not including the 30 minutes of oven-heating time if you’re like me and own an exceedingly lazy oven.) For how-to on roasting vegs on the stove top, click on the recipe (a little further down) and read about roasting outside the oven.
Since spinach is now plentiful at the market I wanted to use it too, but I don’t love plain steamed spinach and get tired of spinach salads, so I created a spinach, sweet potato (as seen above), chickpea dish, with harissa seasoning and coconut milk. I call it Springtime in Morocco.
Here are the other rules that were broken during its creation:
- Mixing strong spices with light leafy vegs
- Cutting/breaking up the ingredients after you place them in the pan (chickpeas lend themselves to this practice)
- Using coconut milk as an accent in a light dish as apposed to using it as a heavy sauce
- Distrusting a farmer. Like when he has a sign next to his spinach that says “Pre Washed”. In farmer-speak this means all large mounds of earth have been removed. To you and me it means, I don’t have to wash it at home. Think like a farmer. Wash it at home.
- Adding new ingredients to a dish a day after you make it. (The roasted sweet potato actually got added 24 hours later, when I was eating the sweet-potato-free leftovers. I had a big sweet potato I wanted to use up and felt this dish needed something. It made the dish! A “recipe” is never finished until the food has been entirely eaten.)
The result of those broken rules is an outstandingly light but immensely flavorful dish that can be eaten warm or room temp, on its own as a meal or as a side with say pork, chicken or salmon.
Can I use frozen spinach, since it gets cooked anyway, and it’s guaranteed to be washed?
Yes, it’ll just be a bit mushier
What is harissa?
It’s a North African spice medley, similar to Cajun spice. If you don’t have it/can’t find it, a combo of chile powder, cumin, and ginger will do.
What if I don’t like coconut?
I don’t believe it.
Are sweet potatoes better for me than white?
Unlike white, orange potatoes have high levels of beta carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A. And keep the skins on! There is loads of flavor and fiber in the skin.
Why does cooked spinach leave a chalky film on my teeth?
Spinach is high in oxalate crystals (mineral salts) which are released when it’s cooked. Under cooking spinach will help minimize the effect.
Share your favorite ways to eat spinach. Or alternatively, tell us your favorite food rules to break … If you’re reading this in email, click here to leave a comment or on the title at the top.
PS: Only one more day of voting for the Saveur.com best food blog award! If you have 2 minutes, please drop in a ballot! And many many thanks to those who already have.
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