Monday, December 28, 2009

two ways with mustard greens and goat cheese

goat cheese, roasted potato, mustard greens, salsa verde and pepper jack cheese
my first run-in with mustard greens
was about three years ago.
i had been holding onto a recipe that called
for them, but until that point,
the greens had eluded me.
i was at a store, near my mom's -
over an hour away - and i quickly
picked up a bunch, then protected
them for the ride home and the
24 hours until i was ready to
use them. they were $2.49 for
a large group of leaves and i treated them
like they were laced with gold.

the next night,
as i was prepping, i tasted a leaf
and fell in love. they went far
and i used them that week for
everything from risotto,
to the quesadilla i am going to
tell you about today. i found
a new favorite.

(now, here's the point that i
must stop and warn you
if you've never tasted these
greens for yourself.
with one bite, i loved the
mellow crispness of the leaves,
the sharp mustardy bite
and how even when cooked,
they still retained their spicy
edge. so i shared the wealth,
telling my mom how wonderful,
how versatile mustard greens are.
she believed me, she bought them
and she was not a fan. at all.
i needed to be fair and tell you that,
i think.)

my favorite application of the mustard
greens that week, was absolutely the
fresh greens,
tender potatoes,
salsa verde, plus pepper jack for heat,
and creamy goat cheese
all come together for a dinner
that is definitely made for grown-ups.

the original recipe calls for potatoes
that are cubed and steamed, but
i just did not see that going well for me.
the first time, i made this, i used
beautiful purple peruvian potatoes
that looked gorgeous protruding out
of the golden tortillas. this time,
they were nowhere to be found. instead,
i bought two that were medium-sized
and yellow fleshed, thinly sliced them
and roasted each piece until it was
silky in the center and golden on
the outside.
sliced yellow-fleshed potatoes
while they were in the oven,
i chopped up mustard greens,
whirled some of them in the mini
food processor with salsa verde
and grated the pepper jack.
and this is a good time to tell
you two more things that you
may want to know if you decide
to serve these for dinner:

1) at this point, i've used the recipe
for very well-followed ingredient inspiration.
but, instead of waiting 15 minutes
for this to cool, and tossing this with that
and sprinkling with this,
i now just layer everything
on and i'm very happy
with the finished product.
2) i think quesadillas are thought of
as fast food. and while these are not going
to lock you up for hours in the kitchen,
there is obviously some prep involved and
it is not a 10-minute project. while making
them, i was on the phone with my sister.
in the time that it took me to
roast the potatoes and
blend the salsa verde,
she decided to make a quesadilla,
filled a tortilla with cheese and leftover turkey meatballs,
cooked it and ate it.
roasted potatoes and mustard greens on tortillas
neither of these things bother me,
but again, i just thought you'd want to know.
instead, i prep each element,
then assemble it piece by piece,
carefully laying each
mustard green leaf,
potato slice,
goat cheese crumble,
pepper jack shred
salsa verde drizzle,
as if i imagine someone prying
off the top tortilla from the finished
product and examining it for accuracy.
because, yes, we were hungry at this point,
and yes, it will never be perfect,
but i can still appreciate this:
the beauty of each bite bursting with flavor.
cheese and salsa with mustard greens on tortillas
and after they're baked - because yes,
i almost always bake my quesadillas instead
of pan-frying them - and we have our
first tastes, i am so glad for a rare attempt
at precision. they are everything that went
into them:
and fresh.
this is one of those dinners that we were very,
very sad about when it was over.
quesadilla close-up
so sad, that later in the week
i thought about recreating
the quesadillas with all the leftovers
we had in the fridge, but instead, i made a
very unseasonal pesto. i had picked up
a wedge of snow white goat gouda
the day before - without purpose, if i'm
being honest - and quickly got to work
grating it. i tossed the chopped greens
in the food processor with garlic,
toasted walnuts and the cheese,
before whirling, tasting and deciding
the mixture was a bit flat. one tablespoon
of white balsamic gave the pesto a little
more life, and then i drizzled in olive
oil, drop by drop.

then, even though 15 minutes earlier
i had jumped from the couch on an
out of nowhere pesto-making expedition,
i did what any rational person would do -
i transferred the pesto to a bowl,
covered the surface tightly with plastic wrap
and stuck it in the fridge.
mustard greens pesto
the next evening, i was tired and very glad
to have the dinner-inspiring pesto.
i tossed the mixture with
whole wheat pasta,
some of its cooking water,
creamy soft goat cheese,
roasted mushrooms,
more toasted walnuts,
thinly sliced lemon peel
and a big squeeze of lemon juice.
it was good - hearty and satisfying
after a busy cold day outside,
but i think it's fair to say this dish,
flavor-wise, is still a work in progress.
whole wheat penne, mustard green pesto, goat cheese, lemon, toasted walnuts, roasted mushrooms
not a problem - i'll just have to buy
more mustard greens.
mustard greens

potato, goat cheese and mustard green quesadillas
adapted from the bon appetit test kitchen
as i've said, i used the framework of this recipe to create a somewhat simpler, but still delicious, quesadilla. baking quesadillas doesn't make them quite as crispy, but i think it's what's inside them that matters, so it always works out. also, have you ever tried to flip a quesadilla in a skillet? that's another reason why i prefer the oven.

2 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes, thinly sliced
olive oil or cooking spray
2 2/3 cups stemmed and chopped mustard greens, divided
1 cup prepared salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
5-6 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

heat oven to 400˚f. place potatoes in single layer on greased foil-lined baking sheet. coat with oil or cooking spray. season with salt and pepper. bake 10 minutes. flip potatoes, coat again with oil or cooking spray, season with salt and bake 5-10 minutes more, or until just golden brown. remove from oven and set aside. reduce oven temperature to 350˚f.

meanwhile, in mini food processor, combine salsa verde and 2/3 cup mustard greens until smooth.

on foil-lined baking sheet, place two tortillas. divide remaining 2 cups chopped mustard greens amongst tortillas. top with potatoes and pepper jack cheese. drizzle each with 2 tablespoons salsa verde mixture. top with crumbled goat cheese. top with remaining tortillas. coat tops of tortillas lightly with oil or cooking spray.

bake 15 minutes, or until golden and crisp. using pizza wheel, cut quesadillas into wedges. serve with remaining salsa verde mixture.

mustard green pesto
once you have the greens, garlic, nuts and cheese chopped together, taste it and adjust. the next time i make this, i may use lemon juice for acid instead of the balsamic vinegar.

4 cups chopped mustard greens
2 large cloves garlic, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup grated goat gouda, parm or romano
1-2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice)
5-6 tablespoons olive oil

in food processor, combine greens, garlic, walnuts and grated gouda. pulse just until finely chopped; taste and adjust, adding more garlic, cheese or walnuts, if desired. add balsamic vinegar; pulse twice. with motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil, just until the texture of the greens change to a puree and the mixture turns bright green. season with salt and pepper.

transfer mixture to a bowl; cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the pesto. chill until ready to use.

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