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It's finally time for cool-season crops, and few are more satisfying to eat in chilly weather than mustard greens. The members of the cabbage family are rich in Vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals and antioxidants. The flavor is spicy and assertive, and lend themselves to a variety of cooking methods including steaming, braising and sautéing. Try them in a white bean stew or your favorite creamy casserole recipe, to make a peppery change from kale or collard greens.

Mustard greens add zip to an omelet or frittata, or you might like to blanch them, flavor with garlic and finish with red wine vinegar for a simple side dish. Simple greens are wonderful served with a chunk of warm cornbread. Sauté them with bacon or throw them into any stir fry or soup.

You can even shred raw mustard greens and add them to a salad if you don't mind their robust, piquant flavor. The tender small leaves are great as a topping for blue cheese burgers, adding a spicy touch. You could also try mustard greens on a pulled pork sandwich or regular burger if you're tired of iceberg and romaine.

Their appealing texture and bright green color ensure your dish will be appetizing. Mustard greens are used in Indian, Chinese, African, Japanese and Southern cooking among other cuisines. Although the main type sold in Houston is the bright green, frilled leaf type, other varieties range from red to purple to green. There are also various sizes and shapes of leaves.

How to Buy and Store Mustard Greens

The smaller leaves are usually more tender and lightly flavored than the larger ones. Choose bright green leaves with no bruises or mushy parts, and then keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days. Wash them in cold water before use to get rid of any bugs, sand or dirt.

In a Starring Role at: Mein

This friendly, casual eatery in Houston's Chinatown offers numerous small plates, making it perfect if you want to go with a group of foodie friends and share. There are also soups, medium plates, rice dishes and more on the menu. Try the wontons or crispy duck to start, then how about a noodle soup and fried rice? This is a good place to try mustard greens if you're new to them. Mein stir-fries their mustard greens with ginger, garlic and a little salt, for an authentic Chinese flavor which brings out the tart, bitter taste of the vegetable without overpowering it. To finish your meal, the lava toast with salted egg custard and maple syrup is well worth a try!

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Recipe: Southern Mustard Greens with Bacon

In this Southern recipe, we use bacon, onion and a pinch of sugar to bring out the beautiful taste of the mustard greens. This recipe takes about an hour to prepare and makes enough for four servings. Try this as a side dish with ribs, pork chops or chicken, or enjoy it simply with buttered cornbread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds washed mustard greens
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 pound bacon, in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 finely diced small yellow onion
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Discard any tough stems from the mustard greens, then add the greens to a large pot over a medium flame. Add a cup of water and keep adding more greens to the pot as they cook down, also adding water when necessary.

Stir in the sugar and cook the mustard greens for 30 minutes, then drain and return the mustard greens to the pot. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and bacon in a skillet until golden. Add the bacon and onion to the pot with the greens. Grind in some salt and black pepper and cover the pot, then simmer for another 20 minutes or until tender.

Stay tuned each week to learn more about what's fresh and exciting at the market and discover where you can enjoy the flavorful bounty of the season.

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Mein

$ Chinese 9630 Clarewood Dr.

Murals by local artist, Chang H. Wang, and exceptionally friendly service make this modern Cantonese restaurant a destination even for diners who rarely vent...