It's easy to think that seeds are incidental: Sesame, poppy, they're so small—are they even there? But mustard seeds let their presence be known. They're forceful in flavor, and we—and others—can't get enough.
What They Are
The seed of the mustard plant eventually grows into dark, hearty greens like collards, kale, and, yes, mustard greens. But in its premature state, it’s peppier, and edible, too. Once heated, mustard seeds are a zing of flavor that wakes up and warms—think a mustard Pop Rock. The more common yellow seeds are slightly mellower; the black-brown ones are zestier (they're what you find in whole seed and Dijon mustards).
Most commonly, they’re simply toasted in a dry pan for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Once toasty, throw them in with curries, stir fries, dressings, or over meat, fish, potatoes, or a hearty salad. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Gjelina in Los Angeles and Navy in New York add flare to dishes you’ve probably had before using pickled mustard seeds: in a potato salad with pesto, and on an avocado toast with fennel and radish, respectively. April Bloomfield also throws them over fingerling potatoes at The Breslin. And Alice Waters sautés collard greens in a sizzling mixture of cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and onion.