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Spring in a Bowl


The spirit of spring is here with acres of yellow flowering mustard brightening vineyards, orchards and roadsides. Mustard is a valuable friend to farmland, planted to nourish the soil with necessary nitrogen. Not only does mustard feed the soil and its flowers beautify the landscape, but the tender young mustard leaves make a fine spring special--mustard green soup.

When I was a child growing up in Southern California, my Italian grandmother, mother and I would often gather enough mustard greens to prepare the leaves, tempered with broth, beans, olive oil, a few aromatic vegetables and the intrepid turnip--a very good soup.

And it could be the main course of a simple spring meal. Serve it with rustic bread, fontina cheese and, for dessert, semolina pudding with strawberry puree. The semolina pudding is a lovely old dessert that is seldom remembered, is thought to be Italian and is unusual with its delicate cream-of-wheat texture and gentle flavor.

MUSTARD GREEN SOUP 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic 1 cup chopped leeks or onions 2 cups cooked, diced turnip 2 cups cooked navy beans 1/2 pound mustard greens or any bitter greens, washed, coarsely chopped 6 cups chicken broth Salt, pepper

Heat olive oil in soup kettle or pot. Add garlic and leeks and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until garlic and leeks are tender but not browned. Stir in turnip, beans, mustard greens and broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer about 15 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 354 calories; 1294 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 4.31 grams fiber.

SEMOLINA PUDDING 1/4 cup cold water 1 package unflavored gelatin 2 cups milk 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup semolina or cream of wheat 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or any orange-flavored liqueur 1 cup whipping cream

Place cold water in bowl and stir in gelatin. Let soften 5 minutes.

Place milk and salt in saucepan. Heat to boiling and slowly stir in semolina. Cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes, or until mixture is thick.

Remove from heat and stir in softened gelatin and sugar. Add Grand Marnier and beat until smooth and blended. Stir occasionally and let cool.

Beat cream in mixing bowl until tender peaks hold. (Do not beat until stiff or pudding won't have soft delicate texture.) Fold whipped cream into semolina mixture. Cover and chill until set. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about: 302 calories; 154 mg sodium; 61 mg cholesterol; 17 grams fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.04 grams fiber.

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