Making this soup was a real stumble-on event. I had picked up a giant head of red mustard at the farmers’ market, not having any idea what I would do with it. Then, as I was getting ready to plant another portion of my kitchen garden, I was leafing through Sylvia Thompson’s excellent volumes, The Kitchen Garden and The Kitchen Garden Cookbook, and came across a recipe for Spicy Mustard Leaf Soup. Ta-da. And there was a bonus: it used corn kernels and vegetable broth. One of my pantry dilemmas at this time of year is using up last year’s produce, including the cold cellar (still full of sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash and onions) and the freezer, which luckily for me is small. I’ve been noodling about what to do with the couple of quarts of corn broth and couple of bags of corn kernels. Here’s my big chance to take care of at least some of both.
Full-grown red mustard has wide leaves that are dark red on one side and green on the other, and a thick stalk. I cut off the leaves and sliced them into ribbons, and I chopped the stems into 1/4 -inch pieces. While the leaves are pretty pungent when eaten raw, they mellow significantly when cooked. And the stems cook more quickly than the leaves, surprisingly, since I do the same thing with collards. It must be the age of the plant.
I used a combination of corn broth and just-made chicken stock. The recipe called for fresh tomato. I tried that with some success, even at this time of year, since I salted the diced organic tomato (on-the-vine type) and let it accumulate flavor and shed water. Tomatoes aren’t worth it except in local season in my view. Thompson added ground coriander and lime juice to the finished product, which she decided was slightly Indonesian. I tried a little as a taster and left it out.
This was very flavorful, and it tasted like a good tonic for the springtime, getting rid of the winter blahs, if you still have any. I wasn’t fond of the addition of ground coriander and lime juice so I made them optional. I could imagine this instead with some smoky ham, making it more Southern U.S. than Southeast Asia. That’s what I’ll do with the leftovers.
Mustard Greens Soup with Corn & Black Beans adapted from Sylvia Thompson
1 large bunch red mustard (about 1 lb, yielding 6 c slivered leaves and 1½ c chopped stems)
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise
4 cloves garlic, slivered
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1½ tsp turmeric powder
8 c vegetable broth or chicken stock or a combination (I used half corn broth, half chicken stock)
1½ c corn kernels (2 ears)
1½ c black beans
Optional: 1 tomato, diced, marinated with salt, and drained
Optional: 1 tsp ground coriander
Optional: Lemon or lime juice
Place the mustard leaves and stems, onion, garlic, peppers, turmeric and liquid in a large soup pot and simmer for 20 minutes or until the mustard leaves and stems are just tender. Add the corn and black beans and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the tomato, ground coriander and lemon or lime juice, if using, and serve in wide soup bowls. Serves at least 8.