The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article in the surging culinary interest in, well, weeds. Plants like chickweed, dandelion, purslane, and lamb’s quarters have gotten a lot of positive press lately for their nutritional properties and their flavor. They also happen to be abundant on suburban lawns.
It’s a shame that these plants are now considered yuppie fare. I have friends whose immigrant parents used to mortify them by harvesting these weeds from urban lots, and really it’s hard to imagine a less pretentious plant than the dandelion. (Even arugula, that most lampooned of leaves, is just considered a weed in its Mediterranean countries of origin.)
So in honor of America’s rekindled interest in dark, spicy greens, two recipes this week. The first is a mashed potato dish from Mark Bittman, who traces it to Italy, although many cultures have some version of this dish. It is, I can attest, somewhat addictive. The second is a recipe for mustardy mustard greens I made up after having something similar at Buttermilk Channel, a highly worthwhile restaurant in Brooklyn. If you like wasabi-style heat, you should find it agreeable.
## Mashed potatoes with greens
* 1 lb potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and cut into quarters
* 1 lb greens (dandelion or other), with the thick stems trimmed
* 1/4 cup olive oil, or more
* 1 cup bread crumbs
1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, 15 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
2. Add greens to the boiling water and cook for about 1 minute. Rinse under cold water, drain, and chop.
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mash the potatoes with a fork or potato masher, adding enough olive oil to moisten them well. Mash in the greens and sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper.
4. Put mixture in an ovenproof dish and top with bread crumbs. Drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake until bread crumbs are golden brown, about 15 minutes.
* Steep a smashed garlic clove in the olive oil before mashing it into the potatoes. Or sautee the greens with garlic.
* Squeeze some lemon juice into the potatoes, or grate some lemon zest.
* Replace the greens with roasted tomatoes.
* Taking it in a very different direction: use mustard oil, fenugreek or methi, and cumin seeds for an indian version of the dish.
## Mustardy mustard greens
* 1/8 lb thick cut bacon (or about two slices)
* 2 lb mustard greens, thick stems trimmed, leaves sliced into 3/4-inch ribbons
* 2 shallots, sliced thinly
* 1 tbsp coarse ground mustard
* 1 tbsp hot mustard powder
1. Slice the bacon into strips and cook over medium high heat until crisp.
2. Lower the heat to medium, add the shallots, and cook until soft.
3. Add the coarse mustard, the greens, and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook until the greens are tender, 10-15 minutes.
4. Stir the mustard powder into a tablespoon of water, so it forms a paste. Add the paste slowly to the greens until you reach the desired heat level. If you use it all, they will be quite spicy. Salt to taste.
5. Serve in a bowl with the cooking liquid.
* To make this vegan, ditch the bacon.