Indian-Style Mustard Greens with Red Rice

Back in the “salad days” (ha ha, food blog humor) of this blog I participated in a CSA.  If you’ve been following since then, you may have noticed I haven’t talked too much about it in well, a long while.  I’ll freely admit that I got overwhelmed and didn’t renew.  To make good use of a CSA, I think, you have to just be able to “roll with it” and when I was last a member, I was still too hamstrung by the need for a recipe.  Especially when so many of the things packed into my box were vegetables I hadn’t really had much before, so I often stared at them blankly waiting for inspiration to hit (which it never did).  I was frustrated by being provided only a bit of this and a bit of that, and if I couldn’t find a recipe that magically combined the products in the box in the correct quantities, I was at a loss.  The fact that CSAs send email previews of what you can expect perhaps did more harm than good in my case.  I would try to prepare and brainstorm what I would make in advance, to take the pressure off, but my tendency to overthink things would prove it was still in fine fettle.

Indian Style Mustard Greens (1 of 3)

A few weeks ago the farmer’s market near by office reopened and after two visits, buying a few bunches of greens and maybe a pint of berries, I did the math and realized that I could probably get a better deal out of using half a CSA box than hitting the various stalls at the market.  Or the grocery store, lest anyone think I’m singling out the local farmers.  (I am always frustrated that my bill is as high as it is, when I buy mostly unprocessed food, and staples like pasta and canned tomatoes.  Ah but there is this thing called cheese…).  So I promptly went and signed up for one.  My mathematical calculations, I decided, would essentially eliminate any pangs of guilt.

What’s different (I hope) this time around?  I feel less bound to a recipe–and having just finished Tamar Adler‘s An Everlasting Meal, I’m trying to keep in mind her guidance on how to bring various components together in a unified whole.  I can wilt down greens, and fill them out with polenta, whole grains, or beans the next day or the next.  I can fold the whole mess into a bowl of beaten eggs, toss in the end of a tub of ricotta, and have a delicious frittata.  I can puree it for toast, or set it aswim in broth for a light soup.  None of these require strict adherence to a recipe, and especially with the summer’s fresh herbs growing in my backyard, any form my food takes is sure to be delicious.

Indian Style Mustard Greens (1 of 1)Still, some greens are easier than others, and when mustard greens appeared in my first CSA box this year it took me a minute or two to realize it wasn’t some form of curly kale.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a quick spin on the internet and came across several recipes for sarson ka saag (see here, here, and here), a northern Indian preparation of these greens.  To make it a meal, and a beautifully colored one at that, I cooked up some red rice that I had from an impulse buy (yes, you’re thinking, maybe there’s your supermarket problem, but I did have a coupon)–though you could use any rice you had.  Red rice cooks up a bit faster than brown rice and (I think) it is still whole grain–plus I’m pretty sure I caught a cocoa aroma when pre-toasting the rice, but then I may have just been having really bad chocolate cravings.

Though this recipe uses a food processor (and the thought of cleaning it often is enough to put me off using it) it comes together quickly and is aromatic with the classic Indian spices.  Besides a fast and easy dinner, I got a couple of servings for my lunch box, which, on reflection isn’t all that bad for something pulled together on the fly with a vegetable I didn’t even recognize.

Indian Style Mustard Greens (2 of 3)

Indian Style Mustard Greens (Sarson ka Saag) with Red Rice

  • 1 cup red rice (or other rice)
  • 1 large bunch mustard greens (or other bitter green, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2t red pepper flakes
  • One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or ghee
  • Salt to taste
First, start the rice:  cover the rice in a saucepan with 1 1/2 c water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a gentle simmer.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Drain off any excess water.  (For a nice touch, toast the rice in ghee before adding the water.  This takes a few minutes, but brings out a nice nutty aroma in the rice).

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoons of ghee.  Rinse the greens and when the skillet is hot, transfer the greens with any water clinging to them to it.  Turn every 30 seconds or so until the leaves begin to wilt down, turn more frequently until the greens are fully wilted.  Transfer the greens to a large bowl (it can be your eventual serving bowl).  Wipe the skillet dry with a paper towel.

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and ginger to the food processor and finely chop. Add the onions and finely chop.  Reserve the food processor (you will be using it for the greens).

Add three tablespoons of ghee or oil to the skillet over medium heat.  When the ghee has melted, add the garlic-onion mixture.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes.  While you are doing this, add the greens to the food processor, and pulse several times until finely chopped (almost pureed).  When the onions are cooked, add the greens and cook for 4-5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add a few spoonfuls of water if the mixture starts to dry out.  Adjust for salt.

Scrape the rice into a serving bowl, and then the greens on top.  Serve.


17 thoughts on “Indian-Style Mustard Greens with Red Rice

  1. This philosophy rules at our house. The key is having enough combinations/techniques hardwired so that you don’t have to invent the wheel every time. This recipe looks delicious – and thanks for the introduction to Tamar Adler. Ken

    • My husband is not a fan of bitter greens generally. I didn’t find these too strong, as they go, but I understand blanching a few minutes draws out the bitterness, or salting and letting stand. I’m not sure how well either of these work or which works better– since I don’t mind the bitter flavor, I don’t bother!

  2. Bookmarking this for when the mustard greens do come in. They’re a challenge for me to use up sometimes. Would love to hear more about the book, Everlasting Meal.

  3. I have tried many types of rice… Brown,basmati,jasmine etc but red rice never caught my eye. It looks wonderful and makes such a colorful presentation!

  4. I love the dish you created here! Greens and grains are just delicious together. I devoured Tamar Adler’s book and I am viewing cooking in a new light (and saving all my veggie trimmings now). Plus, you have to admire a chapter devoted entirely to boiling water!.

  5. You must be the Boston-area sister who left a comment on my blog. 🙂 I love farmers markets, and I’m waiting for my local one in Quincy to start. Now Indian food I love, but the preparation often intimidates me! I’d love to make something like this.

  6. Pingback: Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk, Miso and Lime | Three Clever SistersThree Clever Sisters

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