Before Saturday, I'd had collard greens twice in my life. Once was at a PoFolks restaurant. Another time was at a potluck I went to with a friend. Each time I saw people (usually older people) enthusiastically eating collard greens so I decided to try them. And both times I wondered what the hell these people were thinking eating something so nasty.
However, I've always wanted to like eating collards. They're a very southern thing, they're good for you and they're one of the only local vegetables you can get your hands on right now. So I bought some the other day and hoped for the best. I knew I need to give them their best shot at stardom so I opened up Deborah Madison's book, Local Flavors and looked for a recipe. I found one that not only used collards bit also had potatoes and bacon in it. I've already used up all our local potatoes but I did have some organic ones from the co-op. I also had local bacon on hand and chile buzz (vinegar, hot peppers and salt) made from our Lemon Drop peppers.
I actually tried the collards before Mark cooked them up and they were fairly tasty - cabbagy but not bitter at all. Local and treated to plenty of cold weather definitely makes a difference with this vegetable. I'm actually thinking of putting in a couple of plants for next year - do they still taste as decent in hot weather?
This recipe is incredible. I never thought that I would actually crave collards!
Collards with Potatoes [and Bacon]
adapted from "Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison
serves 2 to 4
"Bacon, made without nitrates and from wholesomely raised pigs is superb, especially with these greens, but just leave the bacon out if you're not a bacon eater."
2 bunches collard greens or a mixture of collards and kale
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely diced
3 or 4 strips bacon, cut into small pieces, optional
2 tbsp. peanut or olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 plump garlic cloves, finely chopped
good pinch of red pepper flakes
hot pepper sauce or vinegar for the table – we used Chili Buzz
1. Strip the collard leaves from the stems and wash the greens. Bring a few quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and the greens, then simmer for 10 minutes. Scoop them into a bowl. Add the potatoes to the cooking water and simmer until tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned. Set it on paper towels to drain, discard the fat, and wipe out the pan.
3. Return the pan to the heat, add the oil, and when it's hot, add the onion. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
4. Coarsely chop the cooked greens, then add them to the pan along with the garlic and pepper flakes. Scoop some of the potato water into the pan as well so that everything cooks in a little moisture, adding more water as needed.
5. When the potatoes are tender, scoop them out and add them to the greens. Add the bacon, then toss everything together. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Keep everything distinct or mash the potatoes into the greens. It's messy-looking this way but especially good. Season with pepper sauce or vinegar to taste.