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?
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.
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!!