Sorry for all the radio silence around these parts lately.
The truth is, we hunkered down for a cold, wet January with very little fanfare and not a lot of excitement coming out of the kitchen. I’ve tried out a few new recipes that turned out to be keepers — including a caramel layer cake and some homemade yogurt — but for the most part we’ve been eating a lot of familiar, simple basics.
These braised collards are the sort of thing I tend to make a lot of this time of year. They’re comfort food, Southern style, only minus all the fatback. I don’t think you’ll miss it. Red pepper flakes, garlic and cider vinegar provide plenty of punch instead.
I also forego the traditional, hours-long boil in favor of a quick braise with lots of diced tomatoes. The resulting collards are tender but vibrant and still an attractive shade of green, not a limp, drab leaf in sight.
Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a household where the only collards we ever ate were ones that had been cooked for the better part of an afternoon, at least. And if you served me a bowl of those soft, long-stewed greens, I would happily eat every last bite and then look around for something to sop up the pot likker.
But these are not those collards. Fresh tasting and quick cooking, this dish is perfect for a weeknight meal on a drab January evening. Nestled alongside big scoops of black-eyed peas and hot, buttered, rice, these collards made a convert of my formerly-brassica-hating husband and are a favorite of the resident toddler as well.
Even if you think you don’t like collards, it’s worth giving these a try. I’m betting they’ll make convert out of you too. If they don’t, well, then you can just send me the leftovers.
Collards are best after a frost, which makes them the perfect food for these chilly months when most of the produce available seems to be shipped in from far away places.
Cabbage collards have pretty, ruffly leaves and a milder flavor than regular collards. I don't see them often, so if you come across some you might want to snap them up.
If you don't have collard greens, both mustard and turnip greens make good substitutes.
- 2 - 2 1/2 pounds collards (weighed before trimming)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 5 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 28 ounces canned, diced tomatoes (one large can)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 5 tablespoons cider vinegar
Trim tough stems from collards and cut into short, thick ribbons. About one inch by three inches is good, but don't sweat this step too much. I think the easiest way to do this is to fold each collard leaf in half and cut out the stem, then stack a bunch of leaves together, fold them, and cut them into ribbons. Wash and drain the collard ribbons, but no need to dry them.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute more, being careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the collards to the pot, along with the sugar, salt, and cider vinegar. Cover until the collards have wilted, a minute or two. Stir in the diced tomatoes and cook, string occasionally, until the collard greens are tender but still bright green, about 10 minutes.
Serve with rice and black-eyed peas.