a girl and her greens.
to the market we go… Sunday was my day for marketing – the rain had stopped, the sun was out for maybe just a minute, people were out brunching and strolling and the Divisadero farmer’s market was a perfect late morning walk from my house. Much more sleepy than the behemoth of a market that is the Ferry Building Saturday, the Sunday Divisadero market is one small avenue of white tents in an empty parking lot. There was a man playing very Parisian accordion, a man selling espressos and cappuccinos, and a half a dozen or so produce vendors. The scale seemed to fit my mood: a little sleepy and very casual. Very Sunday. After careful consideration and many inquiries to farmers, I chose mustard greens from Serendipity Farms. It was serendipity. The farmer I spoke with suggested I use the very esculent greens in a potato salad; an immediate selling point for me. What’s done was done: $2 and a smile for my new adventure with mustard greens.
Mustard greens conjured up images of my childhood family visits to North Carolina where barbeque and greens (collard, mustard, and okra) reign supreme. I never much fancied the stewed and brewed vegetative state though as a kid, so I was determined to find a different approach. Epicurious is always my first go-to when I don’t have access to my mother’s tattered stacks of Gourmet back issues from the nineties. (The site is home to collections from Gourmet and Bon Appetite anyways and very precisely organized). Uninspired by the idea of a summery potato salad, I sat down for enjoyable research: and lingered on a recipe for potato, mustard greens and spinach soup. The air was cold, and rain was rumored – it seemed appropriate. And remarkably, for once, I had all the ingredients.
Me being me, I couldn’t follow the recipe in exact practice. Here is what I did:
– cut two large potatoes into one-inch squares, chop one large yellow onion
– wash and cut leaves off stems of one bunch mustard greens and one bunch spinach (a bunch preferable to a bag – usually more fresh). Definitely wash – there WILL be dirt in your sink.
– peel 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, mince.
– saute onion in olive oil in large pot on medium heat until golden and translucent; add potatoes and saute a few more minutes. Add only 5 cups water, let boil, and reduce to simmer until potatoes are very soft (about 25 minutes).
– in another large pot, saute garlic in olive oil very quickly. Add about a teaspoon yellow curry powder. This gives it a warm flavor it needs. Then, handful by handful, add the chopped spinach and mustard green – saute over medium heat until soft, dark and wilted.
– combine both pots into one once potatoes are very soft and puree (in batches) in a food processor or blender until creamy and superfood-green.
– return to pot, heat on low, and add water if you really want it – plus a generous amount of sea salt and cracked black pepper.
serve with a little spoonful of sour cream and some leftover mustard leaf cut like this, a chiffonade (a good thing to master for herbs and greens). And, if you’re feeling truly motivated or experimental – a loaf of fresh bread. I made my first ever along with the soup, and it came out looking and smelling far better than I could ever have predicted.
The experience, in its entirety, was a delight. I departed from my usual Sunday routine to enjoy the slowness of the market; the individual vendors – farmers and cheese makers alike – and the purpose of finding something new. So often we wander down the aisles of grocery stores and by muscle memory, choose the same items each time. We instinctively grab heads of broccoli, bags of salad, and a bunch of uninspired-looking tomatoes. The very nature of a farmer’s market, at its core, is to shake that system up. Not all the vegetables are labeled with recognizable names; prices aren’t always readily displayed. You’re standing 2 feet from the person who, more often than not, grew and picked the bunch that you’re holding in your hands – and you have the very reserved privilege of asking them what it is, how much it costs, and what they suggest you do with it.
Spending a Sunday afternoon walking the streets with a bouquet of mustard greens in my hand was curative. It seemed to suggest a renewed sense of heart & gratification – and a pot of homemade soup and bread in the oven did just the same.