Mustard greens were popular in Italy in the Middle Ages and have all but disappeared today. A check of many of Italy's best markets, including the one in Padova, did not yield a trace of this ruffled-edge, green leafy vegetable, but that did not discourage me from reintroducing them on a garden segment of Ciao Italia.
I learned how to cook them from my mother. She cooked mounds of this pungent, mustard-tasting vegetable in large amounts of boiling water, then drained and squeezed the greens dry. She mixed them into scrambled eggs and put them between slices of coarse bread for lunch. They were never a requested food from me. Now older and wiser, I can't wait to plant mustard greens each year in my home garden and I like them sautéed with dark-as-midnight, pungent black olives and cheese.
1 teaspoon salt for cooking the greens
2 pounds mustard greens, leaves only, washed
1/4 cup Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted and cut in quarters
Fine sea salt to taste
Grinding of coarse black pepper
1/4 cup grated Pecorino or crumbled Sardinian feta cheese
Fill a soup pot with water and bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the mustard greens, and cook, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the mustard greens in a colander and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the excess water. Chop the greens coarsely and set them aside.
In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and olives, and stir until the garlic softens but does not turn brown. Add the mustard greens and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Transfer the mixture to a serving dish and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and serve immediately.
Note: This dish can also be used as a sauce for dressing one of the hollow-tube pastas cut into short pieces such as rigatoni, penne, or ziti.
Did you know that if green vegetables such as mustard greens, broccoli, and green beans are boiled uncovered, they will retain their green color? The acids in the vegetables evaporate during the cooking process, and when vegetables are cooked with a lid, these acids can turn green vegetables a dull gray-green color.
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