Don’t Want to Cook? So Don’t – Eat This!

While I love to cook, I know that there are many people who do not.  Eating affordable nutritious food without cooking is pretty much a non-starter most of the time in my opinion, but there are many nutritious dishes out there that are so simple to prepare, that anyone (even someone who HATES to cook) can master them with ease.  Even those of us who like to cook can use a break from hovering over hot pans now and again.  When this happens to me, provided it’s even remotely warm, I look to the garden to see what’s available and build from there.  Right now the garden is ALL about greens.  Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce.  But what to do with them that I haven’t already done millions of times?

Righteous Veggies

Namul where have you been all my life?  Cruising through a cookbook the other night (yes, I have an exciting life), I came across a picture I couldn’t get past.  It was green and beautiful and the food photography makeover (which included edible flowers and a lovely rustic wooden table underneath) did wonders.  I was REALLY drawn to the food, so I settled in to read about it.  Spinach Namul.  I had no idea what that meant.  Now, I do.  So here we go, stretching ourselves just beyond the boundaries…

Namul is a Korean dish that typically involves vegetables, some kind of vinegar or soy sauce, sesame oil, and sometimes chili, garlic, sesame seeds.  The vegetables marinate, so if they are remotely tough, they soften or wilt and they pick up the flavor of the other ingredients WITHOUT COOKING THEM.  Got that?  If you are one of those who does not care to cook (a subject I’d like to come back to at some point here), this is the dish for you.  I’ll give you the recipe the way I made it but a more refined version can be found in  Ani Phyo‘s Ani’s Raw Food Asia, which is a lovely book and one that I would recommend for a peek by anyone who’s trying to eat more veggies.

Ready for Rice!

MY FIRST NAMUL serves 2 as the main event, 4 as a side

  • 4 c spinach, washed and dried
  • 2 t soy sauce (or Bragg’s)
  • 2 t toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, made small however you like
  • 1 t sesame seeds

Place everything but sesame seeds in large bowl and toss.  Ideally you should massage this with your hands.  I was doing a bunch of other things at the same time, and decided to use utensils instead.  Set aside and let marinate for 20-30 minutes, tossing periodically.  Add sesame seeds, toss and serve.  Yes, that’s it.  How to eat it?  You could use it as a side dish for any protein you like.  OR you could do what I did and serve it on top of brown rice with warmed frozen peas and a chopped up asparagus stalk (there’s that asparagus again!  still coming a few stalks at a time).  Delish.

My poor husband missed the first round, so he had it as leftovers, which worked really well, and all he needed to do was warm the rice, then pile on everything else.  If it had been a hot day, he said it would have been just as good with the rice cold.  It would seem that at least in our house this is a crowd pleaser.  And the simple nutrition of it got me to thinking.  Surely there would be other combinations that might work as well.

Ani Phyo’s book has a variety of namuls, different vegetables, the occasional chili thrown in.  I was wondering if the principle of the namul, greens wilted through marinating, could be used with other flavor combinations.  Since we’ve been eating less meat, I’ve been using a lot of Asian flavors.  We LOVE Asian food, but it would be good to expand the repertoire a little bit….  I decided to try a Italian twist on namul (I can’t seem to stop myself from going Italian).  And it was super yum.

Mediterranean Wilted Greens

  • 4 c geens, roughly chopped (I used kale)
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 T pine nuts (or really whatever nut you have that you like)
  • 2 t raisins or currants (optional)

I’m betting you can guess what to do here.  Throw everything but the pine nuts and raisins if you use them in a bowl and massage or toss.  The thicker your greens, the more you should mix, and the more time you want to give it to marinate (20-30 mins).  When done, add pine nuts and raisins (if you choose).  I served mine with whole wheat shells and garbanzo beans.  Delish.

How else could we change it?  A French version of the Mediterranean greens might use wine vinegar and add a bit of fresh thyme and parsley.  A Japanese version of the original namul might use rice vinegar instead of soy sauce, and come with a side of wasabi, or have nori flakes broken into it.  Yum.  The possibilities are endless.  And they’re all SUPER nutritious.  WAHOOTIE!  Let’s hear it for namul!!

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23 responses

  1. this sounds so good! thank you for sharing this recipe. like you we eat a ton of greens and i can definitely use another way to prepare them :)

  2. I am so impressed that the kids ate this. It sounds so not very different from cooked greens and yet certainly is by the reaction! Can’t wait to try it… and get more greens in my child as well : )

  3. I get sick of eating salad after salad, even though I know it’s what my body needs to get awesome nutrients. Namul! Who knew? This is such a great way to get the greens like in a salad, but not the same as a salad! I made a salad the other day with nori strips, avocado, cucumber, carrot, and romaine. The dressing had sesame oil, sesame seeds, braggs, and rice vinegar – I soooo need to try it with kale now and give it a good massage and let it rest! Even tastier over brown rice! Like a deconstructed california roll Namul!

  4. Hey ladies! This be the food of my peeps! So excited to see you writing about it here! I love namul with cucumbers – so refreshing. We spread salt on finely sliced cukes, let sit, then wash thoroughly and squeeze. After that, we add the marinade. Makes for a nice, limp, delicious side dish. A little tid bit – namul is one of several “pan chan,” side dishes served with a meal. In traditional households, you show respect by serving a lot of pan chan. So a traditional man might get offended if you set out only a few haha! Thank goodness we ain’t traditional over here!

    • Oooooooh. Those cukes sound fantastic! And I’m all for a lot of pan chan. I’ve had some fair amount of luck overcoming my little picky one’s objections by flooding the table with options. It’s also a nice strategy for leftovers. ;-) Thanks for the namul education! Always great to hear from you. :-)

  5. My hubs and I discovered spinach namul while visiting Korea for the first time last fall and we fell in love with it! We cool the blanch the spinach first, but I’m interested in trying it this way next time. Always fun finding new recipes… :-)

    • I really liked the raw – sometimes I find cooked greens TOO limp and these were just right. Slightly soft and still so fresh. WOW! Trip to Korea must have been incredible! Thanks so much for coming by!

      • Well, that’s how I’ll have to try it next time then. As for the Korea trip- it was amazing! I was adopted from there and it was my first return. It definitely increased our appetites for Korean food!! :)

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  8. This looks great! Always looking for different things to do with kale, will def try your approach. And I’ve never ever heard of a namul- we use Bragg’s liquid aminos all the time so I look forward to trying this recipe too!

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