vegetarian

Mustard (!)

8 March 2010

mustard

[Mustard greens from the market, March 2010

.]

Never let it be said that I’m not stubborn. I’m the girl who will, if you offer to pay for dinner, cheerfully (but cheerfully!) fight with you over the bill (just ask my best friend). I’ll finish books I’m not enjoying all that much (see: that Dylan Thomas biography I was so looking forward to but which turned out to be disappointingly not written too well) because, darn it, I started it and I will make it to the bitter end even if I’m gnashing my teeth the whole time. I’ll go out even when it’s raining if I’ve slated myself to run that day (anyway, running in the rain is refreshing — right?!) because, see, I have to. I’ll stay up late doing dishes because I can’t stand to leave them in the sink ’til the next morning, no matter what anyone says about taking it easy. And even when I’m nursing a 10-day cold, I’ll avoid going to the doctor because I believe in the power of herbal tea and sleep (also, I’ll rarely take over-the-counter stuff because it makes me feel high, and not in a good way).

All this to say that yes: I’ve been sick, and I’ve been stubborn about it. I haven’t been take-to-my-bed-for-days sick, but a more general under-the-weather sick in a way that makes coffee taste unappetizing (though a soy latte the other day really hit the spot) — so you know it’s serious — and leaves me rather woebegone at the whole situation. Still, I have high hopes I’ll feel better soon — in fact, am already getting there — partially thanks to a strange, spicy, wholly nutritious soup made from mustard greens.

I was whinging on to my favorite farmer at the Saturday market about having a cold and he said, Here, take this, on me, and make a soup with a lot of garlic and you’ll feel better. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical though I do trust this guy implicitly and his produce is unfailingly gorgeous and delicious. Then as I made my sniffly exit a nicely-dressed older gentleman caught my eye and exclaimed Mustard! quite approvingly and I felt rather proud of myself. It was worth a try at any rate.

I’d not cooked with mustard greens before, though they are quite lovely (see above), with their prettily curling leaves and bright green hue. But, mustard?

Really? I’ll take chard, and quite happily thanks, or kale, or spinach, or or or. Mustard is fine on bread in a sandwich, but in a soup? That sounded a bit strange. Still, farmers just always know about vegetables and he’s never, ever steered me wrong.

So I came home and did this: sliced up a lot of garlic and peeled and grated some fresh ginger and washed and roughly chopped the mustard greens. I put all this in a big pot with a lot of water and brought it to a boil. I crumbled in a little bit of vegetable boullion and reduced to a simmer, and I let it go on like that for a good half hour or so until the garlic was soft and disintegrating and the greens were thoroughly wilted. I added a good heap of black pepper and a splash or two of soy sauce and poured heaping ladles-full over some brown rice I had leftover in the fridge — and that was dinner.

And … it was fine. I’m a believer in the power of vegetables to heal and soothe, and this soup certainly did taste healing in a way, the mustard and ginger spicy enough to make my nose run, the broth hot and nourishing, the brown rice just chewy enough to give the bowl some heft. I still felt pretty not-great when I went to sleep that night but in the morning things had definitely taken a turn for the better. Can I blame the soup? Or maybe it was the whole wheat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I baked for an upcoming story? No matter! Whatever it takes — as long as I don’t have to go to the doctor. I mentioned I’m stubborn?

(Mustard greens, for your knowledge, provide a lot of vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as magnesium, folic acid, and calcium. Eating these greens is recommended for people with athsma as a way to promote lung health. So perhaps that was why I felt so much better Sunday morning?)


[Medicinal soup, March 2010.]

I don’t know if I’d make this soup necessarily for pleasure, if you know what I mean (c’mon — it’s no udon with mushrooms or couscous with vegetables) but given the results I’ll certainly make it again (and will finish off the pot). It was surprisingly pretty OK. And if I can take the more natural route to feeling better, well, I shall.

Meanwhile, I’m still experiencing a big crush on March and it has responded in kind — we San Franciscans were just treated a spectacular weekend and I did not take it for granted one bit. It was sunny nearly the days-long, all the clouds blown out to sea, the wind scouring the streets and pushing clean, pure air throughout my apartment. Before my medicinal soup-eating I sat in the park in the sun for an hour and read and nibbled on bits of delicious milk chocolate and a banana. It was grand.

Yesterday afternoon I ran a lot of miles and as sometimes happens after long runs it’s hard to sleep; I lay in bed feeling my muscles still humming from the day’s exertions and listening to the windows rattle in their frames. I’ve mentioned before my apartment often feels like a ship at sea, and it particularly feels as such during a wind storm. I pulled the blankets up and burrowed into my clean sheets (Sunday is laundry day) and drifted off thinking of the clear blue Mediterranean and a rocky beach at which to put in. It was the perfect way to end a few days of gusty sun and blue skies — spring, so soon, I can feel it on my skin.

A few more weekends like this and a few more bowls of mustard greens soup and I’ll be back to rights in no time. Take note of this prescription for the next time you, too, find yourself a bit under the weather.

  • Amanda 12 March 2010 at 9:51 am

    Dearest Nicole,
    this post makes me think of other vegetables that just never win the contest for me. Vegetables that are just “okay.”

    Last night I modified a recipe from the most recent Bon Appetit of sauteed red cabbage, bacon, caraway, brown sugar & balsamic.
    It was just “okay.” Even after my husband enticed me to swirl in a good deal of the bacon drippings, which I can promise I have never allowed myself to do before.

    Have you found a way to love cabbage?

  • LesleyG 9 March 2010 at 6:15 am

    I need to go get some mustard greens STAT, then. I am under the weather for a third time in 2010, and it does not make sense! Either that or a long run must be the cure.

  • Payal Shah 9 March 2010 at 1:21 am

    Hello! Hope you are feeling better. I am making the Turnip Cauliflower Soup you mentioned in the below as I type this. My place smells of deliciousness from the baking and boiling of the vegetables with olive oil and garlic. Can’t wait to devour it all!

  • jessie schlosberg 8 March 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Hope you are feeling better sweetheart! Hopefully we’ll get to talk soon? I miss you!