FOODS WE LOVE: Sesame Oil
Sesame oil, which gives a warm zest to so many dishes in Asian cuisine, is said to have originated at least 3,000 years ago, though the debate exists as to whether it was first produced in Africa or in India. It is widely believed that as early as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) families were processing it in their homes, and it was at first used as a household fuel. Sesame oil was also used for making exotic perfumes, dating back to the Babylonians, circa 2100 to 689 BCE. And the Chinese are said to have used the oil for their stick ink more than 5,000 years ago.
The unsaturated fat present in the oil helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and it is listed in ancient Chinese medical books as a beauty aid due to the large amounts of Vitamins A, B, and E present, which help slow the ageing process.
Here's a recipe for Orzo with Shiitakes, Caramelized Onions and Spinach, in which you can make good use of some sesame oil. It comes to us via FineCooking.com. When you’re done, you can get your mixing bowls clean with Seventh Generation’s new Foaming Natural Dish Soap Made With Organic Sunflower and Coconut.
Orzo with Shiitakes, Caramelized Onions and Spinach
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
5 Tbs. peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
Pinch crushed red chili flakes
6 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
10 oz. spinach, stemmed, washed, and coarsely chopped
1 lb. dried orzo
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1 lime, cut into small wedges
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and 2 Tbs. of the peanut oil. Set a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, pour in 1-1/2 Tbs. of the peanut oil and, after a few seconds, add the garlic, ginger, and chili flakes. Stir for 20 seconds, making sure that the garlic doesn't burn. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry until they soften, 2 to 3 min. Add the sherry and cook for another 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Reduce the heat to medium, heat the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil in the pan, and add the onions. Season with salt and then sauté them, stirring often, until they're soft and slightly caramelized, 9 to 10 min. Add the spinach, cover the pan, and steam, shaking the pan occasionally, until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic from the mushrooms, put the mushrooms back in the pan, and toss. Remove from the heat and season lightly with salt and pepper. Reserve until needed.
Cook the orzo in the boiling water until it's just tender, about 9 min. Drain it well and put it in a large bowl. Add the mushroom mixture, soy vinaigrette, scallions, and sesame seeds (if using) and toss. Taste and season. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with lime wedges to squeeze over the pasta.