It has relatives that are more well-known, like spinach, beets and quinoa, and some less known ones such as epazote and Jerusalem oak. It is one of the most nutritious plants available. It grows in abundance in the mid-Atlantic states, yet it is considered by some to be an invasive weed. Its name is lamb’s quarters and in a word, it’s delicious.
Its Latin name is Chenopodium album, meaning white goosefoot, referring to the shape of its leaf and to a mealy white powder appearing on both sides. In Canada it has been widely known as pigweed and bacon weed because it was often fed to pigs.
The whole plant can be eaten when young. The leaves are good in spring and early summer. After that, the upper leaves are best. The leaves can be used raw in salads or cooked in soups, stews, casseroles, simply steamed or sautéed. Lamb’s quarters dries well and can be reconstituted or powdered for use in winter. It is very good in raw cheese or tofu dishes like quiche, as its wild flavor and high mineral content go well with cool, bland high protein foods.
Here, I’ve given it a slightly Italian treatment. Shrimp are briefly sautéed with garlic, then folded into coarsely chopped lamb’s quarters that have been separately sautéed with garlic, red pepper flakes and breadcrumbs. This is then combined with spaghetti and served with a little Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil drizzled on top.
Spaghetti with shrimp, lamb’s quarters, garlic and breadcrumbs
Click here to view a large size version of this picture.
3/4 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 bunch lamb’s quarters, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs from a slightly stale loaf of bread or a baguette
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
juice of half a lemon (optional)
Generously sprinkle salt on shrimp, toss and set aside for 10 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the garlic and sauté until lightly golden. Add shrimp and sauté, stirring occasionally until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat a little more olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remainder of the garlic. Sauté until it takes a bit of color, about 30 seconds. Add lamb’s quarters to the pan. Wait until the sputtering dies down, toss in a pinch of salt and cook until the greens wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in breadcrumbs, taking care not to burn them. Add shrimp and parsley. Cook until shrimp are heated through. Check seasoning. Add lemon juice, if desired.
Cook spaghetti; drain. Add spaghetti directly to skillet. Toss with shrimp mixture. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and serve at once.
If you wanted to make this purely vegan, remove the shrimp and replace with golden raisins, olives and some capers.