Spiced Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 10 minutes

One of the quickest things you can get on the table and endlessly versatile too. Serve it with Steamed Sticky Rice or crisp outer leaves of romaine or iceberg lettuce for wrapping the beans into crunchy little bundles.

Other vegetables you can use: shredded or julienned zucchini; kale or collards cut into ribbons.

2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 pound (about 4 cups) bean sprouts, trimmed if you like

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger or garlic

2 tablespoons any spice blend, like Chinese five-spice powder or curry powder (to make your own, see pages Hot Curry Powder)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the oil in a deep skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bean sprouts and the ginger, raise the heat to high, and toss a few times to coat.

Let the vegetables cook for a couple minutes, until they begin to sputter, then stir them around a bit. Sprinkle with the spice blend and salt and pepper and stir again, adding a few drops of water if they’re starting to stick to the pan. Stir once or twice more. The bean sprouts are ready when barely tender and the spices are fragrant, which just takes a couple minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot or at room temperature.

Beet Greens

These are the leafy greens usually attached to the beet root. They are closely related to chard and often mistaken for it; you can treat them identically. Both the stems and the leaves are edible; young and very tender ones can be tossed into salads, while tougher leaves and stems must be cooked.

Buying and storing: Most often beet greens are available only when attached to the root (it’s two vegetables in one!). Choose greens that are fresh looking, vibrantly colored, and unwilted. Remove the greens from the root and store wrapped loosely in plastic in the refrigerator; use as soon as possible.

Preparing: Wash well. Leave small leaves whole and chop or tear larger ones into strips or pieces.

Best cooking methods: Steaming and braising.

When are they done? When wilted and tender.

Other vegetables to substitute: Chard or turnip greens.

Beets

Beets come in a beautiful array of colors and sizes, from dark red to golden yellow to striped, and shapes from the familiar round to long and thin, to tiny. They’re all good. The beets sweet and earthy flavor is wonderful and just as good served cold or at room temperature as it is hot. Additionally, raw beets keep for weeks in the fridge and also keep for several days once cooked.

If staining from the vibrantly colored juices is the only thing keeping you from cooking beets, check out the preparation tips that follow and Beets Baked in Foil for a nearly stain-free beet experience.

Buying and storing: Unlike most root vegetables, size doesn’t matter when it comes to beets; large ones are almost always just as good as small, and they’re easier to handle. One sure sign of freshness is the presence of the greens (which are edible and lovely; see Chard and Beet Greens); if they’re fresh looking, the roots are fresh too. Beets should be nearly rock hard when you buy them; avoid any that are soft. Remove all but an inch of the greens (cook the greens as soon as you can) and store the roots wrapped loosely in plastic in the refrigerator. They keep for weeks.

Preparing: Scrub well; leave on an inch or so of the greens to minimize bleeding. (Peel the beets after they’ve cooked.)

Best cooking methods: Baking, roasting, and braising and glazing.

When are they done? When tender all the way through; pierce with a skewer or thin-bladed knife to check. Slight overcooking is usually preferable to under-cooking.

Other vegetables to substitute: Turnips, rutabagas, carrots, or parsnips.