Who knew baby bok choy was such a star? It seems to be the most popular vegetable on the Island right now, and the little bit of it I planted in May is pretty much gone. I have another young patch coming along, but it prefers cool temps, so I’m afraid the weather might be too hot when it matures. In the meantime, while I wait for my next cooking green to get big enough to harvest (Swiss chard is close), I’m picking mustard greens to sell.
I’ve noticed that since I wrote “Mustard Greens” on the farm stand sign (instead of “Baby Bok Choy”), we’ve had fewer people pulling into the driveway. Well, harrumph! Doesn’t everybody know how tasty mustard greens are, too?! Okay, seriously, if I were to be honest I’d have to tell you that mustard greens are not as groovy as baby bok choy. For one thing, they don’t have that stand-up texture. But they are strangely delicious in a very arresting kind of way. If you like spicy mustard of any sort—and you’re looking for a powerhouse nutritional kick—give mustard greens a try. (They’re not only purported to lower cholesterol, but they contain unique cancer-fighting phytonutrients and lots of Vitamins A, C, and K.)
I especially like the young tender leaves I’m harvesting now because they don’t need par-boiling—just a quick turn in the sauté pan. Super quick and easy. Ginger and garlic both are natural partners for mustard greens, and not surprisingly, the spicy greens do really well with just a touch of something creamy to offset the zing. For me that creamy thing is often goat cheese. I’ve been making a really simple lunch/snack of toasted or grilled bread with sautéed mustard greens and a bit of warm goat cheese on the top (recipe below). I guess I have goat cheese on the brain these days, too.
There’s one last reason why mustard greens are my heroes this spring. For some reason those wily flea beetles danced right past them on their way to the Tuscan Kale. (This was not good news for the kale, unfortunately.) Normally flea beetles feast on anything in the brassica family, including the milder mustard relatives, mizuna and tat soi (in the photo at right, top), that I put in my salad mixes. But they didn’t linger on the mustard greens, leaving them nice-looking enough to sell. Whew. The greens grow so quickly, too, that I’ve been able to harvest baby leaves for salad and come back the next day to find the rest of the leaves on the plant 6 inches tall–perfect for cooking. You could live on this stuff. Really.
This recipe is more like a thought-starter, so feel free to jiggle it around as you like. You probably have a favorite method for toasting or grilling good bread, too, so use it. This makes a nice snack or light lunch for one person, but scale it up as much as you want to serve more, or turn it into a crostini for starters. Remove the tough stems from the mustard leaves before ripping them into smaller pieces. If you only have mature, large mustard greens, you would want to parboil them 3 to 4 minutes first and drain well before sautéing.
1 oval slice Artisan bread (about 6 or 7 inches long and cut 1/2-inch thick), cut into two pieces
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 to 3 ounces mustard greens, stems removed, leaves torn into small pieces (about 2 cups), washed and spun dry
2 tablespoons crumbled fresh goat cheese (or queso fresco or other cheese if you prefer)
Heat the oven broiler on high and arrange a rack 4 to 6 inches from the heating element. Put the bread on a baking tray or cookie sheet. Brush one side of the bread with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and broil until lightly browned. Set the toast aside on the sheet tray. (You can lightly brown the other side, too, if you wish, though leaving the bread a little soft in the middle is nice.)
In a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mustard leaves and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Pile the mustard greens on each of the two bread pieces and crumble the goat cheese or other cheese on top. Place back under the broiler and cook just until the goat cheese is warmed and softened.