Collards are classic southern fare, but it seems these days most people only eat them when dining out at Cracker Barrel or other kitch-filled southern restos. You never really see them on classic american menus or even on buffets. They are hardly represented at holiday meals, yet they are one of the best, most nutrient packed cold weather foods around. Collard greens are at their peak in the colder months and have dark, leafy greens packed with vitamins A,C, and K. They are also loaded with calcium and folate without being calorie dense. So, what’s going on here? Why doesn’t anyone seem to be eating these anymore? Why is it all kale and brussel sprouts and beets these days? What about the lonely collard green?
Recently, on one of our excurtions to my boyfriend’s family farm in N.C., his mom offered to show me how to she prepares collard greens straight from her garden. She is a fabulous southern cook so I jumped at the chance to be her sous chef in the kitchen. Surprisingly, collard greens were simple to make.
We started in the garden. Look how big these things are!
First, we cut the leafy heads off with a small axe.
I still can’t get over how big these are! My boyfriend is hiding behind his.
Then, we bring the leafy heads inside and pull off the good leaves (put any bad leaves to the side). Cut out the stem and big veins so that all you have left is the tender, leafy part.
Next, roll up one leaf at a time (just like sushi) and then chop it into thin pieces.
Wash the leaves well under cold water before placing in your stew pot.
Put all leaves in pot with enough veggie stock or water (salted) to cover. Boil the leaves down until they are tender (about 30 to 45 minutes).
Once the leaves are cooked, drain water and transfer leaves to a pan. Stir fry with a few tblsps of olive oil, dash of salt, and a few dashes of red wine vinegar to taste. I also like to add red pepper flakes for some heat. Cook for just a few minutes, or until your collards look like this.
Feed the bad leaves to the sheep! Collards make these sheep very happy.
Serve up the collards piping hot and top with hot peppers, vinegar and even a sprinkling of parmesean cheese. Though they are traditionally cooked with meat seasonings, I decided on vegetarian vegetables…I know, crazy right? But, these collards are so good you don’t need meat to enjoy them. I ate lots of these and still had room for more.
If you don’t have a big garden blooming with gorgeous collards, don’t worry, you can find them in the produce secion of your local grocery store. You can usually find them chopped and bagged or whole.
Now that I know how easy these collards are to make, I plan on cooking them up as often as possible. I think I’ll even prepare these as an alternative to the many overcooked, tired casseroles sure to be present at Christmas dinner. I hope you will too!
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