Seasonal Chef: Mustard Greens

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With Winter dragging on for so long this year many of the usually suspects like fiddleheads and ramps are coming to us slowly. So while I wait with baited breath for them to arrive I have been seeing a lot of leafy greens popping up at the market. The hearty kale of course and others like chard and arugula. I happened to notice a bunch of bright green mustard greens last week and decided to give it another look. Last summer I created a nice pesto using red mustard greens and wondered what using the green mustard  variety might lend itself to?

Essentially the green and red variety of mustard greens both have the same flavor profile: a bold peppery, almost horseradish flavor. I think very similar to Chinese mustard.  Mustard greens are very high in vitamins K, A and C and have calcium and fiber. You really can’t beat the nutritional value of just one cup of these greens. However, the flavor in it’s raw state might be strong for some, so I would encourage you to try it sautéed or braised.

You want to look for bright green stalks that are crisp and free from sticky wilty spots. Once home give them a good wash in cool water and pat dry. If not using right away roll them in paper towels and then in a produce bag. They will keep for 3 to 4 days in the crisper bin of your ‘fridge.

This past week I taught a Couples Cooking Class at Hilltop Hanover Farm and used sorrel in a soup we made for the class. Sorrel is a slightly sour lemony green, generally found only at farmers markets. While Hilltop was growing some in their hoop house, I wasn’t able to find any this week, so I decided to see if I could swap it out for the mustard greens. The result was delicious I’m happy to report!

Spring Onions

Working from a recipe found in my Love Soup cookbook by Anna Thomas, I started with spring onions. They have a wonderful mild flavor and sauté beautifully.

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While the onions cook you can prep out all of your greens and vegetables. Spinach mellows out the spiciness of the mustard greens and helps keep the color of the final dish pretty.

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Fennel and asparagus give the soup a little body. Be sure to cut them on the smaller side to help them cook a little faster!

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The original recipe calls for a little arborio rice to thicken it. I kept that in, as I had some in the cabinet, and it works perfectly. You could probably use a regular rice but perhaps adding a little more.

Puree the soup.

Right at the end, after turning off the heat, you want to add your mint. Adding fresh herbs too soon will render them almost undetectable as the heat cooks out a lot of the flavor. After about five minutes carefully blend with an immersion blender. I did puree in a standard blender, but found that using a stick blender allowed the mint to stay present and show as little flecks.

Mustard Greens and Spring Vegetable Soup by Maria Reina, Seasonal Chef

The soup turned out beautifully and with some tangy, salty feta and a few reserved fennel fronds just delicious. You can’t beat the color to brighten your day, even if it’s a rainy Spring afternoon. Click this link to see the recipe for: Mustard Greens, Spring Vegetable and Mint Soup

Buon appetito!

One year ago: Quinoa, Shiitake and Nut Veggie Burger
Two years ago: Easy Radish Slaw

Mustard Green, Spinach and Spring Vegetable Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Mustard greens have bright spicy bite, reminiscent of Chinese mustard. Combined with asparagus and spinach you will end up with a wondering Spring soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spring onions, bulb and light green part separated from the dark green
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup fennel (anise), 1/2" dice (see note), about 8 oz
  • 2 cups asparagus, 1" pieces, about 8 oz
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 small bunch of mustard greens, 8 oz after de-stemming
  • 6 oz spinach
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons of arborio rice
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup packed mint leaves
  • Feta Cheese

Instructions

  1. Separate the white and pale green part of the spring onion. Chop into 1" pieces and sauté with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes until golden brown.
  2. Chop the dark green parts of the onion and set aside. You should have about 2 loosely packed cups.
  3. Prep the veggies: Remove the tough outer layers of the fennel, to reveal the tender inner part. Chop into 1/4 " dice. Reserve the fronds. Chop the asparagus and smash the garlic. Set aside.
  4. Prep the greens: Roughly chop the mustard greens and spinach.
  5. After the onion takes on a nice golden color add the water and turn up the heat. Add the vegetables, greens and rice. Bring to a boil, add the stock, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove the lid, turn off the heat and mix in the mint. Let the pot cool for 5 minutes.
  7. With an immersion blender puree the soup. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Garnish with crumbled feta and fennel fronds.

Notes

If you start with a bulb of fennel that this about 1 1/4 lbs, you will have what you need for the recipe. After removing the tough outer layers you should have about 1/2 lb a perfect amount for this recipe.

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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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