This past weekend we made it down to Madison to visit my brother, his wife and their newborn baby. As part of the trip we made sure to stop by the Dane County Farmer’s Market. As usual we picked up more veggies than we really should have, but I guess that’s a good thing as I am trying to eat a little better than I used to. Included in our haul this time were, golden beets, fava beans, red spring onions, baby potatoes, most of which were just larger than a peanut M&M, a number of different lettuces, a couple loaves of bread and, my favorite find of the day, mustard greens. This doesn’t include the pastries we picked up to munch on as we walked the market, which included a pistachio baklava that was to die for!

Now mustard greens might not sound like much to get excited about, but up here, in Wisconsin, it’s hard to find the type of mustard greens that I grew up with and really enjoy. Most of the mustard greens I find around are grown the by Hmong (an ethnic group from Southeast Asia) farmers and it is a milder, larger version of the stuff that I really like. The mustard greens I grew up with had smaller leaves that were less thick and slightly ruffled around the edges. Picked early it had a pleasant sharpness to it and just a little bit of a horseradish like heat. Later in summer that heat would take on a nose clearing intensity. My brother and I would find ways to either trick each other into eating, or just plain forcing each other to eat the hottest leaves we could find and would laugh uproariously as the other would suffer through the pain and heat. Ah…..memories.

Early in the summer, mustard greens are still pretty mellow and make a wonderful salad especially when paired with a warm bacon vinaigrette. Used as an accompaniment to a couple of ribeyes, grilled over charcoal and roasted baby potatoes, tossed in butter, garlic, salt and pepper, and you have a great summertime dinner.

Wilted Mustard Greens Salad

serves 3-4

1 red spring onion, sliced thinly into rings
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
vegetable oil for frying

1 bunch mustard greens, stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces (about 8 cups)

3 slices bacon, sliced into 1/4 strips, width wise
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

Fill a small sauce pot with about 3/4″ of oil. Combine the flour, salt, pepper and chili powder and mix well. Add onions and coat well with flour, breaking apart the individual rings. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. When oil is just barely hot enough (a small piece of bread placed in the oil should start to bubble immediately but should take a bit to brown) shake the excess flour off of the onions and place in the oil. Fry just to the point of turning light brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

While onions are cooling fry bacon in a saute pan over medium heat, until brown, crispy and have render most of its fat. Remove bacon and add vinegar to the hot oil. Add the sugar, oil, and salt. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add half to the mustard greens. Toss to wilt, adding more dressing if necessary. Add the bacon and fried onion rings, toss again and serve immediately.

Feel free to add halved cherry tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, sliced raw onion, or sliced hard boiled eggs to the salad if you so choose.