This installment in the Clean Plates series features mustard greens, a member of the genus Brassica — the cabbage family. These dark leafy greens are a staple vegetable in China and other parts of Asia, and play a central part in American soul food cuisine. Their peppery, mustard-flavored leaves are a rich source of vitamins A and C as well as thiamine and riboflavin, and add a spicy pop to any dish.
We spoke with chef Daniel Angerer, an Austrian chef making a splash stateside, and health-conscious restaurateur Adam Eskin, owner of Dig Inn Seasonal Market, one of NYC's most delicious and affordable organic dining destinations. The pair met three years ago and have worked together to find the best local farms growing pristine produce for the (soon-to-be) six Dig Inn locations around the city. They discuss their ingenious approach to letting ingredients shine, building relationships with farmers and making succotash modern.
What's your favorite ingredient á la minute?
Daniel: The recipe we chose has mustard greens. It's a succotash recipe. We call it the Dig Inn Succotash because traditionally a succotash recipe is corn, but our recipe is a little different because our focus and aim is to source as many of the products as locally as possible, meaning in the tri-state area.
Our mustard greens are nice and fresh; they have been usually been in a field the day before, so within 24 hours we have them in the restaurant. When I get the delivery, I break a leaf — it is naturally so mustardy, so spicy, that it doesn't need much of any other spice. We simply chop it up.
Other ingredients, like the red peppers right now, are great because they bring a nice sweetness to the recipe. We balance the natural spiciness of the mustard greens with it.
We try to take the sugar from peas and the butter from lettuce, to explain what we do here.
Can you expand on that approach?
Adam: The philosophical approach to cooking that chef Daniel embraces — he calls it: "butter from lettuce, sugar from peas." Mustard greens are one of those ingredients. They're very dependent on freshness, and fit into that construct: If you get the right product and it's fresh, you get so much flavor from the fresh produce that your requirement to add a bunch of stuff to it is much less.
We want to be known for very high quality food that's really delicious.
Daniel: Last year for the first time we had these mustard greens and we said, "Hey, this is awesome." It's so amazing when you bite into it, and it's spicy without any seasonings. This is exactly up our alley for Dig Inn because we don't need to do much with it, just get it really fresh and chop it a little bit, toss it with some red peppers, kidney beans and toasted sesame seeds — that's how simple cooking can be.
We use sea salt, though we definitely don't use much spice or salt in this recipe; not even pepper. We try to keep it very simple because everything should be nutritionally sound — not too much fat, not too much sodium, hence our locally sourced ingredients.
How do you source your produce?
Daniel: I think one of the most important things we can do for just about any recipe is to use ingredients that are fresh. So nothing against California or New Mexico, but the closer we get with ingredients for our recipes, the more the recipes can speak for themselves. That's really the aim of what we do here at Dig Inn.
We've been lucky to establish relationships with farmers. The mustard greens really shine. They're a good messenger of the season: If people go out to Long Island and walk by a farm, they have mustard greens right there — they bring the flavor.
Adam: We're learning more and more, getting out to the fields, talking to the farmers and understanding the nuances of what a farmer can grow, whether they're organic or certified naturally grown, what kind of pesticides they're using and what kind of pest management program they have in place. We're getting more familiar and comfortable with how all that works.
Are you using the mustard greens in any other dishes?
Daniel: No, we couldn't get enough! That's the issue when you're using local farms; I would go through the roof — I would go nuts with mustard greens because they are awesome.
Dig Inn's Modern Succotash with Mustard Greens
Dig Inn Seasonal Market’s imaginative, nutritious succotash recipe from executive chef Daniel Angerer consists of three simple steps: Cooking beans, chopping peppers and mustard greens, and mixing a light summer dressing.
Serves 4 generously
1 pound kidney beans, soaked in 8 cups cold water for 6 hours or overnight.
8 cups hot water
1 tablespoon paprika powder
1 tablespoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic, peeled, thinly sliced
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 pinches cayenne
1 tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds
2 red bell peppers, cut in 2-inch by ⅛-inch strips
1 bunch mustard greens, sliced crosswise in ¼-inch wide strips
For Beans: Drain beans in colander. Rinse with cold water for two minutes, or until water runs clear. Transfer to stockpot. Add 8 cups hot water, paprika, coriander seed. Cover; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer gently for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until beans are tender. Remove from heat; stir in salt. Drain beans. Spread onto baking sheet; cool 20 minutes. Transfer beans to bowl. Refrigerate 2 hours.
For Dressing: In small pot, bring 1 cup water to boil; add garlic, boil 1 minute. Drain garlic; discard water. In medium bowl, combine garlic and remaining dressing ingredients; whisk to blend. Or, process in blender 2 minutes. Whisk in sesame seeds.
For Salad: In serving bowl, combine beans and vegetables. Add dressing; toss to coat evenly.
Time Saver: Canned beans can also be used (though they won't be as tasty); substitute 2, 14.5-ounce cans organic kidney beans, drained and rinsed. Be sure to check the sodium content on the label; sodium levels can vary widely.
Story by Clean Plates Managing Editor, Tory L. Davis