Friday, February 1, 2013

Collards for those who think they don't like collards

I've heard a lot of people talk about how they just don't like collards. I can understand this. I too did not like them as a child. Or as a teenager. Or as an adult. I ate them out of the desire to have a prosperous new year and then did not eat them again until the next new years.

This all changed when I started growing them. Like most vegetables, the way to love eating them is to grow them. The first year I grew them, it was an extremely cold winter for NC. We got comment after comment like: "These are the best collards I've ever had" or "It only takes 15 mintues to cook them! They're not in the least bit bitter!" These collards were nothing like those bought in the store. They were sweet, without the expected bitterness. They cooked so quickly that many people almost overcooked them thinking they were like store-bought collards.

We had such a surplus that mom and I immediately set about to experimenting with the vegetable, pushing ourselves beyond the traditional pork and collards parameters. We came up with three great recipes that I'd like to share with you this year. These collard recipes will convince even the most skeptic of yankees.

1) Cream of Collard Soup (thanks to Peggy Carlough)

- Sautee onions and garlic in butter
- add in chopped collards (about 6 leaves per person)
- partially submerge them in water or veggie stock. If you are using water, add in a bullion cube
- let reduce until collards are soft, about 5 minutes
- purree
- put it back on the heat and a little bit of cream/half and half to taste (you can add mushrooms here if you'd like for a heartier soup)
- add salt and pepper (and NUTMEG!!! my mother disagrees with this spice, but I love it!) and let it warm through
- serve with toast

2) Stewed Tomatoes, Peppers, and Collards
- sautee onions and garlic in canola oil
- add in some red and green peppers (or aji dulce or paprika peppers if you can find them)
- add in some chopped collards and stir
- add water/stock/bullion cube if necessary to get the steaming process going
- add in a can (or two) of chopped tomatoes
- salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
- serve with ricotta chese and pita

3) Collard Casserole
- cut up collards in a pot with a little bit of veggie stock or water/bullion
- when they are a dark green color (before they get brown), toss in some cream of mushroom soup
- take them out of the pot and put them in a greased casserole dish
- sautee onions and garlic in another pan
- add in a healthy amount of mushrooms
- put the onions/garlic/mushroom combo on top of the collards that are in the casserole dish
- top with (swiss, provolone, mozarella) cheese
- bake until the cheese is bubbling

I hope these recipes inspire you to try some of our collards and experiment beyond their tradtional boundaries. Collards are a very versatile vegetable that we should embrace and not relegate to old, poor southerners. They are so healthy and beneficial to our winter diets!

I truly believe that if we all ate more collards, or greens in general, we would lead richer, fuller, and more satisfied lives. New Years Legends can come true.