I won’t debate how much wisdom may or may not be gleaned from cartoons, but this much is clear: Popeye had at least one thing right. Sure, he might have relied too heavily on his physical strength to solve problems, and he had questionable relationship skills evidenced by his inability to ever get very far with Olive Oyl. But he knew that he was “strong to the finich cause i eats me spinach,” and that’s a valuable nugget of nutritional info that applies not only to spinach, but other greens as well, including my favorite, mustard greens.
There's really no reason not to eat these leafy lovelies. But here are a few reasons you should:
- They're currently at their peak and easy to find fresh from local farms.
- They're excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.
- They hold up well to being wilted in bacon fat, smothered in eggs and cheese and baked with even more cheese on top.
And if the last reason didn't grab you, you may need to run to the mirror, stick out your tongue and make sure your tastebuds are still there.
I adapted this mustard green gratin recipe from the amazing chef-scientist (and a Southerner to boot) Alton Brown, which initialy made me nervous. Why mess with perfection, right? Still, I wanted bacon, and I didn't want any mushrooms, so... Serve this dish as the main course for a weekend lunch or light supper or as a side dish with pot roast or baked chicken.
Mustard Green Gratin
- 1 pound stemmed mustard greens
- 5 slices of bacon, diced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 10 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cups of grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the leaves from their stems, wash them thoroughly and chop them. After chopping, make sure they are dry. Alton recommends using a salad spinner. If you don't have one, place them on paper towels, cover with another and press down, repeating until there is no water left.
Spray a 9 by 11-inch or 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the chopped bacon until crisp. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until completely wilted. Add the greens mixture to the eggs and cheese and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into your greased baking dish and cook for 30-35 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on top and bake for 5 minutes more.