Collard greens, or Collards, as they’re known in the South, are typically prepared with bacon, or pork belly and braised or boiled for a long time until the texture is reminiscent of buttery Saag (a spinach dish in Indian cuisine cooked in ghee). The Collards you may have grown up on were most likely cooked in this manner, and usually retained a strong pork flavor that you either loved or hated, so you doused them in hot pepper vinegar or hot sauce!
Well Collard greens, and all leafy greens are so incredibly good for us. Yet they can be a little daunting, especially without the bacon to help things along. They have a very earthy, chlorophyll flavor to them with a slight bitterness that can actually be pleasing in the way endive is.
They can be eaten raw or cooked. With such hearty greens like collards some cooking really helps them along. 1 Cup of cooked and drained collards provides 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 308% vitamin A, 58% vitamin C, 27% calcium, 12% iron, and they are strongly anti-inflammatory. Good news for those suffering with chronic pain!
To start select your collards at the store or farmer market. The best way to wash them well is in a sink full of water. Swish well and shake loose all the dirt and grime so it falls to the bottom of the sink. Then you will want to either use a paring knife to cut the leaves off of the thick stem, or tear them off. It really doesn’t matter. I prefer to buy my vegetables organic as much as possible due to some of the genetically modified seeds out there.
You can eat collards raw in a salad like my kale salad, and they sure are going to give you a good chewing workout. This could be good for those of you missing your steaks on the diet. It is also very easy to do a quick saute or braise until it melts in your mouth from long, slow cooking. They also work well finely shredded tossed into a cole slaw.
Being that they are rich in iron, they tend to go well with citrus and acidic ingredients like vinegar. Adding citrus to iron rich foods helps in the absorption of the mineral during digestion. Ensuring you get the most out of it, as well as tasting great.
Since Autumn is fast approaching us I think it appropriate to offer you a stuffed squash recipe using Collard greens.
You will need:
- 2 small Acorn squash
- 2 cups collard greens, chopped
- 1\2 cup wild rice
- 1 1\2 cups water or stock
- 3 Tablespoons fresh sage, chiffonade or finely minced
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium celery stalks, minced
- 1 cup chopped onion, about 1\2 large onion
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne
- Pinch of allspice
- 1\4 lemon ( a wedge)
- 1 teaspoon sea or Kosher salt
- 3\4 cup Pecan halves
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees faranheit.
- Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.
- Cut the squash open from the stem to the base, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and lay the squash cut side down on the baking sheets.
- Bake for 20 to 30 Minutes, r until easily pierced with a paring knife. Remove from the oven when you can do this, and let the squash cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
- In a medium sauce pan cook the wild rice and collards in the water. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmering, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes. The rice is done when the grain starts to split. If there is extra water leftover drain it out in a strainer.
- In a saute pan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the celery, onion, lemon thyme and sage until just softened.
- Stir in the parsley, black pepper, cayenne, allspice, and salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- When the squash have cooled enough to handle, use a spoon to carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing.
- In a large bowl mash the squash flesh and reserve.
- Select about 16 (4 per squash half) perfect pecans for a garnish, then use a food processor to grind the rest of the pecans to a fine texture.
- Add the processed pecans, to the reserved, mashed squash flesh, along with the sauted celery and onion mixture, and the wild rice. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and mix thoroughly.
- Stuff the mixture into the pecan shells and garnish with the perfect pecan pieces you removed prior.
- Place all in a casserole or baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops feel firm to the touch.
This dish is a little time consuming but the beauty is that you can make it ahead and assemble the components and bake for a quick meal the next day. Or eat it cold!
Try Collards. You might love them. They will do your body and joints a world of good while they fill you up and help reduce your chronic pain.