I am of the belief that collard greens are perpetually misunderstood. Most people I know think these greens can be served only one way — paired with a hunk of smoked meat and cooked until they’re limp and olive-colored.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against this particular approach and have always appreciated a serving of long-braised greens. It’s just that I think it’s time to broaden our approach to the humble, healthy collard. Who knows, maybe we’ll make it as popular as its cousin kale!
My collard conversion started a few years back. I had gotten yet another bunch in my CSA share and needed desperately to free up some space in the crisper. Without time for a long braise, I decided to treat the collard greens like Swiss chard.
I cut them into thin ribbons and sauteed them in olive oil with lots of slivered garlic until they were just limp. My first bite was uncertain, as I assumed they’d be tough and chewy (because why else would you need to cook them for hours?). But I was delighted to discover they were tender and had married deliciously with the garlic.
These days, collards are in my regular greens rotation, and one of my favorite ways to prepare them comes from Amy Thielen, host of the new Food Network show Heartland Table. In her recipe for Greens with Spiced Butter and Fresh Ricotta, she has you wilt chopped collards in butter that you’ve infused with black pepper, ginger, cloves, cumin, cinnamon and a bay leaf. Once the collards are just tender, you arrange them on a platter and drop dollops of homemade ricotta on top. It’s a terrific take on collard greens and makes for a perfect Weekender.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— Amy has you start this recipe by making your own ricotta cheese. It’s not hard to do, but if it feels like too much kitchen work, drop by a local cheese or gourmet shop and pick up some freshly made ricotta instead.
— Several of the spices listed in the recipe are used twice at different phases of cooking. Make sure to read the recipe carefully and be aware of those points where the salt, black pepper and ginger are divided.
— If you end up with any leftover greens, try eating them cold on toast the next day. It might sound wacky, but truly, it’s delicious.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.