A friend brought me a beautiful big bunch of mustard greens from her garden. They have a good bite, she warned me, but I already knew that. Mustard greens are wonderful, hot and dense in flavor, but they want cooking.
Now this is not really the “southern” style of cooking greens, although it could be. You know how my “recipes” are; you can (and I hope you will) change it up to suit yourself! This time I made it vegetarian-style and sort of “Mediterranean” (olive oil, no butter or lard or…) just simple and good.
It is a take on an appetizer I had at Barcelona a few weeks ago. Oh yum… They call it “Frijoles Blancos Y Escarole” (white beans and greens) and I could have happily eaten just that and skipped my “main” meal, although everything was delicious.Anyway, here is what I can tell you about cooking pretty much any kind of fresh greens (kale, mustard, chard, spinach, etc etc…): start with what looks like a ridiculous amount as greens cook down to almost nothing. And, when I cook mine I tend not to add water to the pot but rather to rinse the greens just before putting them in the pot. That little bit of water and their own internal juices is usually enough.
Now, almost all good recipes (of mine, anyway) start with “take one onion…”. I had half of a huge sweet onion in the fridge, and since I knew that mustard greens are sharp I thought it would be a good use for that “left-over”. You know, though, that if you don’t have a sweet onion you can use a white, yellow, or red onion… no worries! Olive oil in the pot, chop the onion, sauteé, add the greens, cook down, add the beans, and you’re on your way.
If you want a vegan version, that’s pretty much it, just add a squeeze of lemon juice and bit of finely chopped zest at the end if you like. Or, you can start with pancetta or just good bacon, cook it up, then add the onions, then the greens and go from there. You can add cheese at the end or not as you like. I hope you weren’t expecting specifics or exact measurements or anything like that! C’mon… you should know me by now!
This can be a starter, a side, a main course, you can add more liquid (chicken or vegetable stock) and turn it into a very good soup, you know how this works. Oh and you could certainly add some fire-roasted tomatoes at the end, but they are totally optional as well. I left them out this time, but they’re a great addition. This travels well, so it makes a good pot-luck dish. You can do it on the stove the whole way through, or start it there and finish it in a a crock-pot as you like.
The only thing I will suggest is the order of the players. I used canned beans this time, so they didn’t need much cooking. I made sure the onions were nice and cooked before I added the greens, then made sure the greens were good and soft before I added the drained and rinsed cannellini beans. Then I cooked the whole “mess” (in the Southern sense) until it tasted right, understanding that this is a “better-the-second-day” dish. Mmmm…!
So, here’s what I did:
Greens & Beans
1/2 of a large sweet onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 big bunch of cleaned chopped mustard greens
1 large can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes (optional)
1/2 C good Parmesan cheese, grated
fresh ground pepper
In a large deep Dutch oven, sauteé the onion slowly in the olive oil. When the onion is translucent add another splash of olive oil and the freshly-rinsed greens, and cook down. When the greens are soft, add the beans. Stir to mix. Cook for 15-20 minutes, barely simmering, then add a good handful of freshly grated cheese, stir in and remove from heat. Salt, if you like (although I don’t think it needs it) and pepper to taste.
You know the rest: crusty bread, a nice hibiscus iced tea or red wine, good friends, mmmmm! What greens do you like? Be sure to tell us how you rework this, OK? Mmmm…!