• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

    I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July week.  It was joyous to come back after a 12-day cross-country RV trip to see sunshine in our beautiful home state.  My family started our trip in Los Angeles, CA and slowly made our way back to the East, visiting incredible natural wonders along the way (Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Mount Rushmore, the painted desert of Arizona, the Badlands of S. Dakota).  Because I was cooking most nights on the RV, I had hopes of picking up local, seasonal produce along the drive and blogging about my culinary adventures.  But alas, I did not come across a single farm stand until I happened upon a farmers market at a rest stop in New York State, about one hour from home. Granted, we traveled through vast, desolate deserts and long stretches of national highway, but even across the farmlands of Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana, farm stands seemed scarce (at least on the roads we were on).  I was reminded once again how lucky we are in this area to enjoy farm fresh, local, organic produce that is plentiful and easily accessible.  I couldn’t wait to pick up my first share of vegetables after returning home.

    photoFeatured Item—Komatsuna

    I am particularly excited this week to write about komatsuna greens, as this is the first time I have ever experienced this delicious, large, Asian green.  Komatsuna, a leafy cabbage, has traditionally been grown in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, where it is often pickled, stir fried, boiled, used in salads, or cooked in soups.  In the United States it is known as Japanese mustard spinach, where it is being increasingly planted in small farms like Holcomb.  It is a member of the brassica rapa family.  Thus, it is distantly related to cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

    Komatsuna has green crunchy stems and large leaves that many liken to bok choy.  Young komatsuna can have glossy dark green, quite tender leaves that behave much like spinach.  Older komatsuna has very large leaves and bigger stalks, with leaves that cook up similarly to collards.  While it is in the mustard family, komatsuna’s bite is fairly tame, only slightly horseradishy.  However, it mellows out even more once cooked.

    Like many green vegetables, especially leafy greens from the brassica family, komatsuna is full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, while being low in calories.  Specifically, it is high in vitamins K, A, and C, as well as iron, calcium, and folic acid.  In fact, komatsuna provides one of the best sources of calcium among all green vegetables.

    Komatsuna can be used like any tender green, cabbage, or choy.  It stars in stir fries and salads, but is also wonderful in pastas or soups.  When leaves are older and large, it can help to cook down the leaves before adding them to pasta dishes, as they don’t wilt quite as readily as spinach or chard when mixed with a hot sauce.

    Komatsuna stems can be used like celery in salads or cooked dishes.  Try mixing raw chopped stems into tuna or chicken salad.

    Many Asian countries have a tradition of pickling or fermenting komatsuna.  Check out this recipe for komatsuna kimchi.  See below for a recipe for quick pickled komatsuma stems.

    When using both komatsuna stems and leaves in the same dish, it is important to add the stems first, as they take longer to cook than the more tender greens.

    When choosing komatsuna, look for crisp leaves and largely unmarred stems.  Store in plastic in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about 5-7 days (stems keep longer than leaves).  To keep the greens fresh longer, make sure the tops aren’t peeking out of your plastic bag.  I used another plastic bag over the top of my komatsuna to make sure the greens weren’t exposed during storage.

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    I came up with this recipe as a way to use up the entire bunch of komatsuna, as well as the hakurei turnips and sugar snap peas that are still so plentiful, and the baby carrots that we are just now receiving.  I chose to keep the dish vegetarian, but if you prefer, you can always add some chicken or fish into the mix once your broth is simmering.  Cook just until the protein is done, and then finish off with the coconut milk and lime juice.

    Early Summer Vegetable Curry w/ Komatsuna & Hakurei   Serves 4-6

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 teaspoons canola oil

    – 1 large onion, chopped

    – 1 1/2 cups 1/2″ pieces of carrot

    – 1 1/2 cups 1/2″ pieces hakurei turnips

    – 1 large bunch komatsuna, leaves and stalks rinsed well.  Stalks sliced ¼ – ½ ” thick, leaves roughly chopped

    – 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and or stringed, cut into thirds

    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of curry powder

    – 1 tablespoon minced garlic

    – 1 tablespoon grated ginger

    – 1 ¾  cups chicken or vegetable broth

    – 1 teaspoon salt (more if using unsalted broth)

    – 1 cup light coconut milk

    – 1 tablespoon lime juice

    -Cooked brown rice

    METHOD:

    Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, carrots, and hakurei turnips.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.  Add komatsuna stalks, sugar snap peas, curry powder, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Add chicken stock and salt and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.  Add komatsuna greens and cook, stirring frequently, until greens are wilted and tender, about 3-5 minutes more.  Add coconut milk and lime juice and cook just until heated through (do not boil once coconut milk is in the curry).  Serve in bowls over cooked brown rice.

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    I have had such good luck pickling swiss chard stems that I thought I would try it with komatsuna stems.  I limited the spices to mustard and ginger to complement the slight bite of the stems, but you could probably use any quick pickling brine here.

    Quick Pickled Komatsuna Stems                                                Makes 1 quart jar

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 3/4 cup rice wine vinegar

    – 3/4 cup white wine vinegar

    – 1/4 cup water

    – 2 tablespoons kosher salt

    – 1/2 cup sugar

    – 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

    – 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds

    – 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

    – 1/2 teaspoon chile garlic sauce, optional

    – bunch komatsuna stems, trimmed of all leaves; reserve leaves for another purpose

    METHOD:

    1. In a medium saucepan, heat vinegars, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns and mustard seeds.  Stir until salt and sugar is dissolved.  Allow mixture to come to a boil.  Remove from heat.

    2. Meanwhile, trim komatsuna stems to about 1/2 below rim of quart jar.  Arrange stems tightly in quart jar, interspersing with pieces of ginger.  Pour hot pickling liquid over stems.  Allow to cool for 1 hour.  Screw on lid and place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating.  Will last about 2 weeks.

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    I developed this spaghetti frittata recipe in order to use up the komatsuna leaves I had left over from my pickling experiment.  If you make this recipe using the stems as well as the greens, omit the mushrooms and add more egg and milk.

    This recipe makes great leftovers.  To change it up, try serving slices topped with your favorite marinara sauce.

    Spaghetti Frittata with Komatsuna Greens                                    Serves 8

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, cooked in salted boiling water until al dente; drained

    – 2 teaspoons olive oil

    – 1 medium onion, minced

    – 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, optional

    – 1 bunch komatsuna greens without stems, finely chopped

    – 6 large eggs

    – 6 large egg whites

    – 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

    – 3/4 cup skim milk

    – 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, I used 50% reduced fat

    – 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

    – 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

    – 1 teaspoon salt

    – 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

    METHOD:

    1. Preheat oven to 400 ℉.  Heat olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are almost tender, about 7-8 minutes.  Add mushrooms, if using, and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have given up their juices and are beginning to turn brown.  Add komatsuna greens along with a bit of water.  Cover.  Cook , stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, about 4 minutes.  Remove lid and cook off any remaining water.  Remove pan from heat.  Add cooked spaghetti.  Using tongs, mix up mixture to distribute vegetables among the noodles.

    2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat eggs and egg whites lightly.  Add Dijon and whisk in well.  Add milk, cheddar, 1/3 cup Parmesan, basil and salt and mix well.  Pour over spaghetti mixture in pan and pat down spaghetti to submerge most of it in the egg (if too much of the noodles and egg are not covered with egg mixture add another egg mixed with a bit of milk and pour over top).  Sprinkle with 3 tablespoon Parmesan.  Place in oven and cook about 10-15 minutes, or until frittata is set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Turn out onto a large plate.  Slice into triangles and serve hot.

2 Responsesso far.

  1. Susan LeClerc says:

    I’m looking forward to trying Komatsuna this week – another new veggie! Thanks for the information about it.

  2. Kim says:

    Julie I want to make your early summer vegetable curry but I don’t see how much curry powder to add