Sunday, July 20, 2014

What in the world is Mizuna?

I have a great volunteer job picking up unsold produce at the end of the day from the Tahoe City Farmer's Market.  The produce is all donated to Project Mana, our local foodbank and Meals on Wheels resource.

Because I'm there week after week, year after year, I get to know the local farmers who donate their produce each week.  However, last week at the market a new vendor showed up.  She was selling a new green called mizuna.  Or at least new to me.  It turns out that mizuna is an Asian mustard green, popular during the winter months in Japan.

Mizuna has a slightly peppery taste, sort of like arugula, but much milder.  My sister is absolutely crazy about arugula and would gladly eat it everyday.  As for me, I'm not quite as fond of arugula as she is.  I enjoy it occasionally, perhaps once a week or so, but it seems rather strong tasting to me.  I'm not always in the mood for it.  On the other hand, the mizuna I got at the market was much more appealing.  It was fresh and crisp tasting, and just a little bit bitter, but not too much.

Interestingly, the farm lady that brought the mizuna to our market did not return this week.  She'd had a lot of mizuna left over to donate to Project Mana last week and perhaps did not feel it was worth the long drive up to Lake Tahoe.  I chatted a bit with our local organic Sierra Valley Farms growers about mizuna (they mostly focus on greens.)  They told me that they often grow mizuna during the winter but that it gets riddled with beetle holes in the summer time.  At least that is their experience here in the Sierras.

Anyway, I liked the mizuna quite a bit and will look forward to purchasing more whenever it is available.

I thought I'd try it with watermelon and, of course, the combination together was very nice.  The summer sweetness of the watermelon overrides the piquant flavor of the mizuna.

Mizuna and Watermelon Salad

For the salad:

3 cups of mizuna
1 cup of bite-sized watermelon pieces
1/4 cup of thin sliced cucumbers
2 T roasted pine nuts
crumbles of fresh organic goat cheese

Put the mizuna in the bottom of a serving bowl and layer the remaining ingredients on top.  Pour on the dressing and take to the table to toss and serve.

For the dressing

3 T olive oil
2 T Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar or any fruit infused balsamic vinegar
1/2 t Dijon mustard
1 t Coconut Nectar (my favorite sweetener--available at Whole Foods and many health food stores)
1 T finely chopped fresh shallots
1 whole clove of garlic peeled
1/4 t dried thyme or 1 t fresh chopped
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients.  (As an alternative, I love the bottle and lid that come with Good Seasons Italian dressing.  You can just add all the ingredients and shake. It is also great for storing extra dressing in the refrigerator.)  Do not serve the garlic clove with the salad.  However, if you have leftover dressing, the clove can remain in the shaker jar in the fridge to infuse the dressing with additional taste for the next use.

Same salad with Arugula.  It's Delicious either way!

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