Sauteed Collard Greens

Like classic sauteed green beans are so simple and tasty, they hardly need explaining, or a recipe. But I include this because, well, some people just like recipes. This is for you, buckaroos!

To learn more about prepping collard greens, view this Le Chou Fou WTF, CSA? post.

This version is, effectively, the same as the green beans version linked above. It is no less inspired by the southern U.S. than the other; as noted in the previous recipe, a sauté of the freshest greens you can find, beans or leaves, in a little bit of hog fat, pretty much screams classic southern cooking. But I also suggest some variations. In fact, classic sauteed greens also pair up beautifully with plant-based “bacons”, a variety of which are featured in these vegan bacon recipes from Clean Eating. Just note the slightly different technique.

And now, a step by step walk through, or, if you prefer, jump to the recipe.

  1. Pull the leaves of the collards away from the stems, or at least trim the stems way down.sauteed collard greens prior to cooking
  2. Roll up the collard leaves and slice thinly. If desired, cut the rolled slices in smaller pieces.chopped sauteed collard greens
  3. If using bacon, place 1 slice for every two handfuls of beans in a cold sauté pan over medium high heat; this ensures that the bacon browns evenly, and doesn’t start sizzling and burning immediately. If not using bacon, heat the pan, then add about 1 tablespoon of oil—olive, canola, or coconut—for every 4-8 ounces of greens. I tend to prefer less oil, but some folks like their greens pretty oiled up. Your preference.
  4. If using bacon, once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan. Either way, add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped onions, shallots, or scallions to the hot fat and stir for about a minute. Then add the sliced and/or chopped greens, tossing to coat with oil.
  5. After 4-5 minutes of stirring and cooking the greens and onions, add 1 tablespoon of water or broth at a time; once again, you don’t need much, but if you want them a little softer and/or soupier, add more liquid. Cover the pan tightly and let steam approx 2-3 minutes. When you remove the lid, the greens should be brilliant green; taste to make sure the texture is as you like.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar if you like. Stir for about 1 minute; depending on the quality of the vinegar, it may get a little syrupy.
  7. Top with the cut-up bacon, or your choice of vegan bacon.sauteed collard greensAll purpose and wonderful, these greens can really be served on the side of just about any dish, in any season.

 

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Classic Sauteed Collard

Greens Recipe

 

collard-greens

WTF, CSA? Collard Greens

Even more than dinosaur kale, collard greens look like they’d be perfectly home in Jurassic Park. Leathery and hued a calm, deep blue-green, collards are perceived by many to be the quintessential green of the U.S. south, and a staple of the great cuisine invented by enslaved African-American cooks. In fact, when Warren Beatty as Jay Bulworth visits Halle Berry’s family in that movie, he automatically assumes that the big pot of greens is collards, which he says he “loves.” (It’s fairly obvious that’s he’s never eaten collards in his life.)

“That’s kale,” says Ms. Berry’s grandma Mama Doll, the marvelous Helen Martin. She rolls her eyes.

While, from a cooking standpoint, collard greens can interchange easily with kale or chard, they look quite different and have their own virtues, as well as unique flavor and texture. They are an old world plant, mentioned by ancient Greeks and Romans. Their lovely large leaves thrive in gardens braising under the big summer sun right up to very cold snaps. Their play between crunch and chewiness, bitter and sweet, gets enhanced depending on your cooking technique. Some options follow.

Collard Greens: Raw

You can mix finely chopped raw collard greens into a salad, but they do require a fairly vigorous chew. Rubbing with salt and oil doesn’t transform them the way it does kale, as you can see in this post. So skip that in favor of a truly genius use for a big collard leaf: as a super-healthy, mildly-spicy, fiber and flavor-rich gluten-free wrap for basically filling as you would normally drop in a tortilla.

To execute this, you do need to get out your trusty paring knife and shave down the stem. Then, simply add your ingredients in a narrowish strip down the center of the leaf.

collard-greens-wrap

Tuck in the sides, then fold up. Ish. Obviously, my collard green wrap folding skills have some evolving to do. This was a messy meal, but a tasty one.

collard-greens-wrap-in-hand

I’ve found that, for a while now, I’ve been ripping away considerable swaths of tortilla, because I can’t for the life of me discover a reason to eat all that flour. So now, I get virtue points for noshing away on more greens, which nicely complement the starch in the burrito. The collard green wrap proved particularly wonderful with this refried black-eyed pea and sauteed greens interior, inspired by the glorious Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Topped with watermelon salsa, it earned a big yum.

Collard Greens: Sautéed

Collard greens sauté up beautifully, using the same formula you’d use for many of the vegetables I’ve previously cited. These include kale, but also green beans. Follow the same rules: Heat some fat, start with some type of chopped onion, add the greens, and add a little water or broth. Cover and steam. Test after 5 minutes, then 10. Collards are sturdy; make sure you’ve got the chew consistency where you want it.

collard-greens-sauteed

Additionally, skimp on the salt—though I don’t like to skip it altogether. The deep lustrous greens feature fairly high sodium content. I’m all for judicious salt, with the caveat that it is very easy to oversalt your greens. The key is tasting. Here’s a step-by-step and recipe in case you like that sort of things.

Collard Greens: Boiled or Otherwise Slow-cooked

The classic southern prep of collard greens, by the way, is to boil the hell out of them with a ham hock. This creates pot liquor, often spelled “likker,” the leftover cooking water shaded an electric green and featuring a thin (and to my palate, gross) film of fat. Not    something I really want to eat, but I’ve met many a southerner whose eyes get downright misty when describing the stuff. It’s reputed to be a fine hangover cure. So….there’s that.

For that very reason, however, collard greens go the distance in a crockpot. Just cut them fine, either in squares or a chiffonade. You can stir them into whatever you’re slow cooking and all those vitamins will cook into the stew without the greens turning to mush.

Collard Greens: Perfect Partners

Black-eyed peas, yams, corn on the cob, watermelon on the side, peanuts, bbq anything: All marry happily to collards. But don’t limit them to your ideas of classic southern U.S. cuisine—which is, by the way, very similar to the cuisines of Western Africa because, well, read your history if you haven’t already. Collards’ sturdiness renders them gorgeous in many Asian cuisines, including the many regional variations of southeastern, Chinese, Indian, and Korean—collard greens and gochujang may make you squeal in delicious pleasure. They can hold their own throughout western, central, and northern Europe as well. Simply cut into bite-sized pieces, and fold them right into your dish. And finally, and perhaps surprisingly, they co-exist beautifully with eggs. This quinoa-crust quiche used a mix of chopped broccoli, leeks, and kale, but collards will work just as well, on their own or mixed with whatever greens you want to put to good use.

They’ll add a huge hit of vitamins. Most importantly, they’ll make your taste buds and innards equally happy. Chow down.

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Watermelon Salsa

I confess that this will be a photo-lite post. I came up with watermelon salsa completely on a whim, or, as the French say, caprice. (I prefer caprice, don’t you? “Whim” sounds so, well, wimpy, but “caprice” trips across the ear in a sparkly way, like a little fairy dancing past my head. Careful, fairy! Don’t buzz like a mosquito, or you’ll be fairy toast.) So I didn’t do much planning, just snapped the final product. watermelon salsa with corn, scallions, and cilantro

Read this brief post about how I came up with this wondrous thing, or jump to the recipe.

I had been experimenting with a black-eyed pea and collard taco, based on an Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe (from Isa Does It). I’m not publishing results for my version of the taco, because I’m still fiddling a bit to deem it shareable with y’all. I admit that most beans taste weird to me. Other people say “earthy”, I say “reminiscent of dirt.” I dunno what it is that bugs me.

Anyway, Ms. Moskowitz features an apple/avocado salsa on her black-eyed pea taco, a great flavor/texture choice. But heck, it’s summer. I don’t want to eat apples. Then I thought: Hey! Black-eyed peas/collards = southern U.S. states, therefore fresh corn and watermelon also = southern U.S. states = what I like to eat in summer. Suddenly, like Rapunzel’s pregnant mother, I could not get watermelon out of my mind. (In her case, she couldn’t get some European lettuce called rapunzel off her mind, hence her kid’s weirdo name.)

Dammit, I HAD to have some watermelon.

So I chopped it up, noticed some scallions in the fridge—the mildest of onions—and sliced them, shaved the kernels off a half ear of corn, squeezed in some lime, sprinkled in cilantro, and voila! Fresh watermelon salsa. Which I immediately ate with a spoon, and then I remembered my taco, which had turned into a collard wrap, and to which I’d added some sweet potato fries. Because southern U.S. states also = sweet potatoes.

watermelon salsa on a collard wrap

I imagine this marrying nicely to any kind of pale meat taco, particularly shrimp or chicken. Maybe even pork (though I only ever eat the stray piece of bacon or sausage, so can’t say for sure). The coolness and crunch of the ingredients complements spicy proteins in a lovely, light way. Enjoy!

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Watermelon Salsa: The Recipe

broccoli pesto

Broccoli Pesto

As I’ll note in my soon-to-be published post on broccoli (part of the WTF, CSA? series), it’s one of those vegetables to which familiarity has bred some contempt. Ok, maybe not contempt, but a yawn or two. Broccoli again? Sigh. Guess we’ll steam it. Unless you have broccoli pesto. Huzzah!

Read about broccoli pesto’s benefits and uses, or jump straight to the recipe.

broccoli-pesto-ingredients

As is often the case, I came upon this recipe in my beloved Greene on Greens cookbook. Are you sick of hearing about it? Get over yourself, I’m all over that thing. Mr. Greene has a myriad of ways to have fun with broccoli—all of them quite legal, by the way. Given that Steve had come home with a haul of it PLUS a big batch of basil, I quickly seized on this creative way to deal with both.

The taste of broccoli pesto is not discernibly different from that of regular pesto. The biggest departure is the texture: slightly crumbly and chewy in a pleasant way. Where regular pesto is a simple sauce, broccoli pesto tastes and behaves more like a side dish. Naturally, the eater receives the greater benefit of eating raw broccoli, primarily increased fiber. Additionally, broccoli pesto registers slightly sweeter on the palate than its non-broc counterpart.

Broccoli Pesto: Uses

Just as with regular pesto, you can use broccoli pesto as your go-to summer pasta sauce. But don’t stop with durum/semolina/gluten-free noodles. Either pesto works quite beautifully on any grain or starch dish. I love it with gnocchi, or tossed with roasted veggies on top of polenta. Steve and I tasted a pesto-based dressing at K-Paul’s in New Orleans about 6 years ago; he still makes his version of the dressing today, mixing a dollop of pesto with olive oil and balsamic. Spread pesto on the bread of your choice and top with roasted peppers and mozzarella for a superb caprese sandwich. Or ditch the bread, and make a caprese salad. This 4th of July, I mixed broccoli pesto with mayo and Greek yogurt as the dressing for a potato salad. Mix a little into deviled eggs.

You get the idea, yes? Or, to be Italian for a moment, capiche? Well, then. Buon appetito!

broccoli-pesto

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Broccoli Pesto: The Recipe

 

creamy-protein-salad-base

The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Base

I admit it: this title, “The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Base,” doesn’t exactly snap, crackle, and pop with descriptive lusciousness. Then again, it perfectly describes what I’m about to show you. Add to that its handy factor and adaptability to every diet from paleo to vegan, and I do believe you may thank me (if only in your heart).

Here’s the step by step, but if you prefer, jump straight to the recipe.

It started with a recipe from one of my favorite favorite all-time cookbooks, Isa Does It, by the truly genius vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I have been meaning to try her vegan version of tuna salad, made with chickpeas, forever. But one day, I was just really craving tuna, because sometimes that happens.

Her recipe calls for a bunch of veggies minced fine in a food processor. I didn’t have carrots, but I did have radishes, and I was too lazy to get out the processor. Also, I had just written this nifty knife post and was feeling a bit choppy. So off I went.

creamy-protein-salad-base-ingredients  She then calls for a rather heavy amount of mayo (vegan, natch), as well as some sunflower seeds to mix in with the chickpeas. I like mayo, especially on French fries (which is tremendously Gallic of me). But I also really like some good sour yogurt, and I’ve been upping my probiotic game. Yogurt feels lighter to me as well. So I mixed yogurt, mustard, and mayo together….

creamy-protein-salad-base-ingredients

…then added the veggies and tuna. Voilá! A perfect creamy protein salad base just became a really yummy lunch.

creamy-protein-salad-base-tuna

Lately, btw, I’ve been very happy with Thomas’s Everything Bagel Thins, seen above. I’ve been Noom-ing (post in the works about this super cool new diet/fitness program), which, for one thing, means that I’m watching my proportions of food. Rather than dividing food into “great stuff that you don’t want to eat but have to because it’s good for you” and “all the stuff you want and can’t have,” Noom simply assigns food a green, yellow, or red designation. Green is the least calorie dense, and red is the most. Red isn’t bad, but you just need to be careful how you allot your red points, as well as your yellows. You can knock yourself out with greens, which are mostly fruits and vegetables, but also include some nice things like yogurt. Anyway, the Thomas’s Bagel Thins are just 100 calories of yellow. And I find that when I have a small amount of complex carbs with lunch, I don’t get hungry so quick. As noted, I love carbs. This is the first program in a while that hasn’t made me feel like some sort of felon for admitting that.

Today, I went ahead with Isa’s fake tuna salad, which adds some dulse flakes to the mix for a nice little hit of the sea. (I told you she’s a genius.)

But really, this would work with any cooked protein. Tuna and beans, obviously, but also leftover chicken or turkey (I don’t eat them, but you might), as well as any number of seafood items, particularly lobster if you’re really in the mood for debauchery. Quick, easy, tasty, and you really don’t need to measure. But just in case you feel like you do, well, here’s a rough and highly adaptable recipe.

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The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Recipe

green-beans

WTF, CSA? Green Beans

Here’s the thing with fresh green beans: You can’t buy just a handful.

green-beans-bagged

These are roughly 2 pound bags that I recently saw at Whole Foods. Whole Foods’ idea is that you will buy this entire bag, no questions asked. And of course, you can just remove what you want—even just a handful—with impunity.

But optimally, your idea should be to avoid bagged green beans altogether, because frankly, you have no idea what could be in there.  You can also see how lumpy those beans are, which means: tough. You’ll be much happier with your purchase if you seek out this type of display. Hey, wait a sec! Those aren’t cucumbers! LOL, Larry.

green-beans-in-the-store

You can see that many of the stems are still intact, a sign of freshness. Turn a bag inside out over your hand and grab what you need. (Do wash these when you get home, because people have been running their hands through those things All Day.)

Point being, when green beans rain, they pour. Your CSA box may be fair to bursting with beans one day. What’s a cook to do?

Well, first off, snap off those stems. This, I find, is the most satisfying green bean experience. The stems snap off with a nice snappy pop; maybe even the teeniest bit of water pops out when they’re super fresh.

green-beans-snapped

You can also cut them, which is speedy. You just line ’em up, chop one set of tips, then line them back up the other way and repeat. This works if your green beans are maybe a little less fresh; again, not optimal, but still edible. Bonus: Beans make a great first cutting project for a beginning cook. You can practice your monkey claw, and complete the job in 2 quick cuts per pile of beans.

Just as with all vegetables, you have a few options—though limited somewhat by the ways of the bean. Prior to any veggie recommendations, it’s important to note that acid turns your beautiful bright green beans a downright fug olive color. Add acid, should you need it, to any preparation of green beans—particularly raw, steamed, or blanched—at the very last minute, and the dish will look fine for the next half hour or so. But leftovers are likely to look a bit sad. More on that below.

Green Beans: Raw

ONLY if you have just picked them out of the garden, and if they are the super skinny haricot vert variety (the ones so thin they look like needles). Even so, they don’t call ’em beans for nothin’. While green beans are actually a flower, they’re a little starchy. A quick dunk in a pot of boiling salted water or a light steaming preserves their bright jade color as it brings out the fresh green flavor, and makes them a little easier to digest as well.

If you do opt for raw, just rinse them well and snap off the ends. If you have to cut off the ends because they’re not snapping cleanly, they’re not fresh enough, in my book, to go on the plate without a little further cooking.

Green Beans: Steamed or Blanched

These methods are interchangeable and provide serious versatility. To steam, put your steamer basket filled with green beans in a pot with an inch or so boiling water. Cover the pot, steam 1-2 minutes, then refresh with cold water.

green-beans-steamed

To blanch, simply dump the beans in a big amount of boiling salted water. More water works great because you want to cook the beans quickly, 1-2 minutes; in a big pot, the water comes back to the boil almost immediately. Pour into a colander and refresh with cold water so the beans don’t continue to cook.

You can pre-cook all your beans either of these ways, and then have them on hand for salads and other dishes throughout the week.

Beans love fresh herbs. Dill and mint get called up the most often, but pretty much any, in any combination work. This bean salad link provides step by step instructions and an actual, adaptable recipe if you like precise amounts.

Feel free add some butter or a tasty oil to your barely cooked green beans, because Fat = Yum. Fresh steamed or blanched beans with butter, salt and pepper are completely awesome.

Green Beans: The Steam Sauté

Green beans love some fat. Stir-fry or saute them raw, then add some liquid for a brief steaming. Alternatively, steam or blanch the beans before steaming. If raw, you may want to consider the so-called French cut, i.e., slicing them lengthwise.

green-beans-julienned

It’s a pain in the ass, quite frankly, but it does serve its purpose; it was invented to help out some of the bigger and consequently tougher beans that often get to market.

As for optimal pairings: Native to the Americas, green beans at this point in time are part of nearly every world cuisine, and consequently go with all sorts of things, like….cherries!

green-beans-cherries

In case you think that’s weird, there’s also corn and some feta cheese added to the mix. I swear, it worked beautifully.

green-beans-greekish-salad

They’re wonderful in a big Asian-inspired stir-fry. I adapted this Mee Goreng recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi barely at all (other than to not be tremendously slavish about amounts, and swapping the sprouts for radishes and the iceberg for radish greens, because I had them on hand).

green-beans-mee-goreng

And, with apologies to non-meat-eating friends and readers, I must report that green beans and bacon are quite wonderful, as this take on a classic southern recipe can attest. (The recipe does provide links to vegan “bacon” alternatives, so fear not.)

Do know that, since acid of some kind is usually added to a saute—lemon juice, vinegar, or tomato—leftovers will turn that dismal color. Additionally, while there are many, many recipes I’ve come across that advocate adding green beans to a long-simmering braise of other vegetables and protein, my personal preference is to keep them and crispy and green as possible. If you dig eating olive drab, go for it, and report back.

Green Beans: Roasted

Green beans can be roasted or grilled, though frankly this prep feels a little gimmicky to me. As always, you do you. The basic vegetable roasting techniques apply. Just toss in oil with salt and herbs. Then roast for a brief period, say 5-8 minutes before giving a good stir, followed by an additional 5-8 minutes.

Green Beans: A Few Cool Options

Having steamed and/or blanched green beans on hand benefits your kitchen throughout the week. You can add them to salads, either green or grain based. You can toss them in a soup for color at the last second, stir them into pasta or rice dishes, and dip them in hummus. Chopped up and mixed with a cooked grain—quinoa, barley, a plump short-grain rice—you can then form them into patties and make cute little cakes; I’m currently experimenting with an old Bert Greene recipe to this effect and will post when I’m happy with it.

Best of all, you can either dip into them through the week—they’ll keep nicely in your produce drawer as long as they don’t get wet, for several days—or steam off the whole bunch the day you get them and just throw in a little bean confetti as the inspiration strikes. Chomp away, mes amis.

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