As temperatures drop and fall settles in, salad greens give way to dark green leafy vegetables, at the farmer's market and also in my kitchen.
Mizuna is a green leafy vegetable native to Japan and a member of the Brassicaceae family, well known for its antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits. Sometimes referred to as Spider Mustard, it has long and feathery leaves, tender and juicy stems, and a peppery flavor that is reminiscent of mustard greens.
Smaller leaves can be added to salads and larger leaves stand up well to cooking. Mizuna can be prepared like any other green leafy vegetable: added to stir fry or soup, or simply steamed and drizzled with vinaigrette.
Mizuna was abundant at my farmer's market last Friday so I bought plenty and cooked it up with garlic, onion and orange heirloom tomatoes. I started the dish with anchovies, which gave the sauce a nutty, savory and complex flavor.
If you don't have mizuna, you can substitute another dark green leafy vegetable, like beet greens, Swiss chard or kale.
If you're not a fan of anchovies, I encourage you to try them anyway. They are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and, surprisingly, they don't make this dish taste fishy. Alternatively, you can start the dish with finely diced pancetta from pasture-raised pigs or add olives and/or capers at the end.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
1 small onion, chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic or more, grated, crushed or minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 bunches mizuna (or other leafy green)
Sea salt (optional)
Warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the anchovies. Cook until they break down, a couple of minutes. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the crushed red pepper and garlic. Continue cooking until the garlic becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Do not burn the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and ground peppercorn. Cook until the tomatoes start to break down and form a sauce, about 5 minutes. Add the mizuna, working in batches if necessary, and toss them with the sauce. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Do not overcook.
Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary (it may not even need sea salt). Serve immediately.