However, mustard greens want to sit at the cool kids table, too.
With a distinct and pungent horseradish bite, mustard greens may not be for everyone. However, with their cholesterol-lowering abilities and their purported cancer protection, mustard greens demand a second (and definitely a third) taste. While mustard greens are available year round, they are at their peak from January to April. Their brilliant green hue (although you can find some of the red or purple variety) adds a splash of color, which is a welcome addition in this Chez Panisse appetizer.
The combination of mustard greens with prosciutto is hardly a surprising one. I love a strong sausage with the bite of a tangy mustard. And I'll sign up for any winter greens with pork recipe out there. The bitterness of the greens pairs so perfectly with the smokiness of pork. Given that Alice Waters argues for local food, I don't feel guilty indulging in this merging of two flavors, for mustard greens are abundant around these here parts. Many vintners plant mustard throughout the rows of grape vines in a nod to the Spanish friars who established California's missions and spread mustard seeds as they went. Should you plan a February trip to wine country, you will be well rewarded with the stark barrenness of the vines outlined against the explosion of yellow mustard flowers. (See this almost improper display at Kelleher Family Vineyard in Oakville).
Greens wrapped in prosciutto make a fine and simple and peppery first course bite (and we all know how much I love morsels). Do choose smaller leaves, as they are more tender and the most mild; but in a pinch, the larger leaves will do, especially if you want even more of a peppery shot. No need to worry about variety--for mustard greens boast a whole host from fine to curly, jagged to smooth. Just choose the ones you think are the prettiest or the freshest. Like spinach, mustard greens tend to hold onto soil and sand, so a good wash is always in order.
So, welcome the mustard green to your table, you cool kid. Kale needs a buddy, too. (Alright, if you must, you can substitute kale or any other winter green for the mustard greens below, but that's on your head.) The only problem we had with this appetizer, which was exceptionally quick to make, was to not eat all of them in one bite.
Wilted Mustard Greens and Prosciutto Rolls
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
2 bunches mustard greens (or chard, escarole or kale)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Red pepper flakes
1-2 Tbsp Red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper
12 thin slices prosciutto (about 1/4 pound)
1. Remove the stems from the mustard greens, wash the leaves, and drain them. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan and add the garlic. Let it sizzle for an instant; then add the greens. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes, until the greens are tender. Let them cool, season with a pinch of red pepper flakes, the vinegear, salt and pepper, and more olive oil, if necessary, to moisten them. Taste and adjust any seasonings. Cool and then chop the mixture coarsely.
2. To make the appetizer rolls: Lay the prosciutto slices out on a flat surface and cut them in half vertically. Place a small ball of the greens on each piece of prosciutto and roll the greens up inside. Serve at room temperature or cool.