This week as we were receiving produce from the fields, Gigi from Windflower Farm stopped by with boxes filled with a colorful array of mustard greens, kale, turnips, and mixed chois. While we were stacking the waxed boxes in the warehouse, I mentioned to Gigi my excitement to include such beautiful produce in our shares this week but have a hard time finding recipes for cooking fresh mustard. She stopped what she was doing to recommend pairing the greens with pork. It was just a quick suggestion, but that little bit of sharing got my mind opened up to new kitchen ideas to diversify how I use greens outside of salad lunches. Every farmer that walks though our door wants comes with their own bite sized suggestion to share how they use these crops. The accumulation of these conversations adds up to create a robust foundation of the knowledge required to eat seasonally. These little moments that arise during our conversations with farmers provide access to information that simply does not exist while browsing though the supermarket.
To often, we shop individually. When left to our own devices, our food decisions are often stressed by imperfect information regarding buying responsibly, sourcing and finding a healthy diet. Ultimately this requires more time to read labels, check prices and find a good tomato in February. We have all been there: walking out through the sliding doors of the grocery store, pushing a full cart, wondering if you could have shopped a little more efficiently, a little more responsibly. As we engage more directly with those who live to grow our food, we gain a better idea of what exactly we are buying. By getting involved with local food systems, we know our money is going towards supporting not only personal health, but it helps develop the community around us. As we open up the dialogue around food, perspective changes from prescriptive dining, to descriptive eating, where meals are flexible and revolve around what is seasonally available. With this shift comes the understanding that there aren’t really tomatoes in February, and instead creates the question, “what do I do with mustard greens?” It is an exciting question to confront because it requires reaching outside of our world to share ideas with other people. That question is an opportunity to learn what others in the community are doing in their kitchen, and try something new.
In talking with Gigi, my confoundment with mustard greens turned into an opportunity to expand my cooking knowledge. So, to continue the trend, I will pass on what I learned. Whether or not you cook this recipe, I hope that it inspires a new way to cook seasonally in your kitchen.
This recipe is pulled, and altered, from a cookbook by Esquire called “Eat like a Man”. Below is the recipe, with my own adjustments marked with an asterisk. The actual recipe does not actually call for mustard, but it seemed an ammenable alteration. The mustard’s bite provides sharp contrast to the rich, nutty flavor of pork. For anyone who does not eat meat, a similar effect could be gained by sauteing an egg with the greens, then baking in walnuts. Who knows, your alteration could make this even better! But i digress… and here is the recipe:
9 cups water
2 tsp coarse salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cup ground cornmeal (Hummingbird Wholesale)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Ground black Pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter (I used olive oil*)
4 garlic cloves, chopped (Groundwork Organics)
2 lb ground pork (DD Ranch)
Red pepper flakes *
1 cup milk (Gerry’s Dairy)
2 cups chopped mustard greens (Windflower Farm) *
1/2 red onion (Cinco Estrellas) *
12 sage, or tarragon leaves (Sakestruck herbary)
To make the polenta: Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt and olive oil, reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Gently rain the cornmeal into the simmering water; add slowly and whisk as you pour to prevent lumps. Cover and set on a very low heat; periodically remove the lid and stir. The polenta will get very thick. After 25-30 minutes, or so, stir in the parmesan, butter, and pepper. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm until ready to stir.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
To make the sausage: In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy (or heat the oil). Saute the garlic and herbs, onion until the garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the sausage and pepper flakes and stir with a wooden spoon, breaking up any chunks, and cook until the pork loses its pink color and is slightly brown around the edges. Add in the mustard, and sit until it begins to wilt, less than 1 minute. Add the milk, cover and reduce heat to braise. Cook until almost no liquid remains, 20 min.
Spread oil in the bottom of a 12 inch cast iron skillet. Pour the polenta in first, covering evenly. Spoon the sausage mixture over top. Then, top with crumbled gorgonzola cheese and a bit more parmesan. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it cool for a bit, and then serve.
If you get the pork and polenta going at the same time, the total cooking period is about 50 minutes. This dish is easy, has simple prep, and it loaded with flavor!