mustard, turnip and beet green gratin


This week, after harvesting the mustard and turnip greens from our garden and buying beets from our local farm, I was overwhelmed by a refrigerator filled with greens that needed to be eaten soon. Of course, that’s a pretty good thing to be overwhelmed with, but if you have your own garden, you know that once things start growing, you’ve got to get cracking to keep up with the output. I’ve been experimenting a bit with a pesto, but in the meantime I needed another recipe that would single-handedly reduce that very large pile of greens into something tasty. 

Enter, once again, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. We were lucky last night to hear him speak in person, so I guess this slightly adapted version is my homage to him. For my version of his “Rich Spinach Gratin,” I’ve substituted mustard, turnip and beet greens for the spinach while adapting the cooking technique a little; I’ve also increased the amount of eggs and milk to balance the volume of the heartier greens as well. In the space of about an hour, my problem of what to do with all those greens was solved.

If you like a bit of egg with your mess of greens, then this is the dish for you. Although I didn’t include it in this version, if you find the bitterness of the greens a little too strong, I’d try adding a teaspoon or so of a pungent spice, such as cumin or curry or coriander, or another favorite you have that works well with savory food, to counteract that. Whichever way you choose to season it, this dish goes a long way towards moving you in the direction of more greens, less meat, which according to Mr. Bittman, is a path we would all benefit from following. I agree.

Mustard, Turnip and Beet Green Gratin

(adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman)

1 pound combined mustard, turnip and beet greens (weight after stems removed)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 cup parmesan-reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
extra parmesan-reggiano for topping

Preheat the oven to 375ºF degrees. Wash greens in a sink full of water to remove debris and then shake or spin to get rid of the excess water. Remove hard stems on the greens by holding each leaf and tearing the soft green leaf from the harder stem. Tear leaves into somewhat smaller pieces. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the chopped onion and sauté for several minutes until softened. Add the 1/2 cup of water and 1/3 of the greens and stir until the greens wilt enough to add the next third, and so on. Once you’ve added all the greens, cover the pot and let steam, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the greens are completely wilted. Stir in the salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and drain any excess water from the pan.

In another bowl, add the eggs and milk and beat together with a whisk. Add the parmesan cheese and mix well. Add the sautéed onions and wilted greens and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Butter a 10-1/2-inch by 8-3/4-inch casserole dish and pour in the egg and greens mixture. The depth of the mixture should be about 1 inch. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the entire surface, then grate enough parmesan cheese over the top to cover completely. Place the casserole dish on the middle rack in the oven and cook for twenty minutes until the mixture becomes firm and a deeper color on top. Serve as desired.

Serves 2 to 4 people

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