been messing with our mess of collards?
couple of hundred years in the South, cooks have been
content with the same plan: Cut out the tough stems, cut up
the big leaves, cook them for a long, long (long, long)
time, until they’re falling apart and intensely collardy.
Serve them up with a little pepper vinegar.
good enough for our grandmothers. But these days, a new
generation of chefs and cooks are taking collards to places
our grandmothers never imagined.
grinding them into pesto. They’re putting raw collards
into salads and slaws. They’re pickling the stems and
turning the leaves into juice. And you know what? It’s all
good. Really good.
episode of her PBS show "A Chef’s Life," about
cooking in Eastern North Carolina, Kinston chef Vivian
Howard made collard dolmades, stuffed with sausage,
cranberries and pecans, "kind of like Thanksgiving
wrapped up in a collard."
been this intense interest in kale," Howard says.
"We have this reaction, ‘well, collards are way
better than kale.’"
ARE THE NEW KALE
cookbook on healthier Southern cooking, "Lighten Up, Y’all,"
author Virginia Willis includes a vividly green collard
pesto with a recipe for butternut squash and chickpea soup.
doesn’t remember where she got the idea to blanch young
collard leaves and grind them with pecans and orange juice.
But she uses it in all kinds of ways — on sandwiches, as a
pre-dinner spread on crackers.
of things I try to do is mash things up with Southern,"
she says. When she’s developing recipes, she’ll ask
herself, "What can I do to really celebrate Southern in
not a typical fashion?"
chefs say, are starting to catch on around the country, but
they still communicate a basic Southernness in your cooking
are so emblematic of the South," says Howard. "If
you cook with collards, it says, ‘I’m cooking Southern,’
and then you put a modern spin on it."
Kinston restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, one best-seller
is collard chips, a variation on kale chips. She cuts out
the stems, slices the leaves into ribbons and drops them in
a deep fryer for 10 seconds.
so simple," she says. "I’ve heard it from so
many people — ‘Boy, you really got me with those
true that if you get collards while they’re young and
still tender, rather than waiting until fall for the big
"elephant ear" mature collards, you can do a lot
of the things you’d do with kale. After all, they are in
the same botanical family, along with cabbages, turnips and
kohlrabi, all prized for high levels of vitamin C, selenium
think there may be a little kale fatigue," says Willis.
"Or people are genuinely becoming aware of the benefits
of other brassicas."
that way is what led Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield to
collard kimchi, in his new vegetable cookbook "Root to
Leaf." Kimchi, the fermented Korean relish, is often
made with cabbage, which led him to think of collards.
right now are really experimenting with vegetables," he
says. "We’re all trying to come up with new ways to
make them fresh."
puts collard leaves through a cold-press juicer, then mixes
the juice with carrot and ginger juices as a pan sauce for
pork. He also makes collard slaw he serves with swordfish.
are like, ‘that’s kind of weird,’ but they take one
bite and they’re sold."
WITH A MESS OF COLLARDS
trick to doing different things with collards is to
understand your collards. Things like collard pesto work
better with younger, more tender collards. If you have a big
bunch of collards, you can find more tender leaves further
inside the bunch.
biggest leaves may still need long-cooking, although you can
get creative with them, too. Willis loves to top cooked
collards with an egg for breakfast.
is the breakfast of champions," she says, laughing.
"They’ve got a great flavor."
does encounter some pushback for cooking collards
differently. On one TV segment, she did a collard variation
on a Brazilian-style chiffonade of quickly sauteed kale.
After the show, one of her aunts said, "You took those
out of the pan like they were done."
still experimenting, though. Instead of discarding the thick
stems, she’s been slicing them thinly and sauteing them
before she adds the leaves, sort of the way you’d cook
always experiment with what they have, says Howard. In
Eastern North Carolina, she’s been introduced to collard
kraut, a very old tradition, and people in her area love
cabbage collards, an heirloom-seed version that’s sweeter.
all just adapting to the food of your place, she says. At a
Thai restaurant in Greenville, N.C., Howard spotted a dish
with a name that translates to "flavor bomb." It’s
a mix of dried shrimp, birds-eye chiles, dried coconut and a
tiny wedge of lime rolled in a square of raw collard leaf.
owner told her it’s common on Thailand, served with a
different green. When they couldn’t find the same green,
food isn’t just Southern food," Howard says. "It’s
our indigenous food."
"Lighten Up, Y’All," by Virginia Willis (Ten
Speed Press, 2015).
ounces (about 4 cups) stemmed, chopped collard greens
of 1/2 orange
cup chopped pecans
tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 to 2
tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a small pot of water to boil. Add the collards, working in
batches if needed, and cook just until bright green, about 2
minutes. Drain well.
blanched collards in the bowl of a food processor and pulse
to grind. Add the orange juice, pecans, cheese and oil.
Pulse to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
(You can also chop the collards for a more rustic
and serve at room temperature.
About 1 cup.
from "Southern Made Fresh," by Tasia Malakasis (Oxmoor
bunches of collard greens, trimmed (about 6 cups)
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced
avocadoes, peeled and diced
cup pecan halves, toasted in a dry skillet
cup (about 6 slices) bacon, cooked and diced
ounces crumbled blue cheese
cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
teaspoon kosher salt
cloves garlic, minced
teaspoons Dijon mustard
cup olive oil
together the lemon juice, garlic and mustard. Whisk in the
olive oil. Refrigerate until ready to use.
the greens in a large salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, diced
egg, avocado, pecan halves, bacon and blue cheese. Toss well
to mix. Drizzle with enough dressing to moisten it all, then
toss again. Serve with any extra dressing on the side.
About 6 servings.
may be the perfect tailgate-season dip, and you can use it
right through New Year’s. We adapted it from Edible
Piedmont magazine, which got it from Mindy Ballou
Fitzpatrick of The Friendly Market in Morehead City, N.C.
1 to 2
tablespoons vegetable oil
1 to 2
yellow onions, peeled and sliced
6 to 8
cooked, chopped, drained collards (see note)
(14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, or 1 cup
slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped
cup blue cheese crumbles
tablespoon kosher salt
tablespoon freshly ground pepper
tablespoon Texas Pete hot sauce
cup grated Parmesan cheese
ounces softened cream cheese
cup sour cream
the vegetable oil in a skillet with a lid and stir in the
onion. Cover and cook slowly over low heat, stirring
occasionally, until the onions are very soft and
caramelized. (Can be made in advance and saved to finish the
the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat until browned.
Drain on a paper towel and chop.
large mixing bowl, combine the well-drained collards with
the onions, bacon and all the remaining ingredients. Turn
into a 1-quart baking dish or ovenproof pie plate.
in a 350-degree oven and bake about 20 minutes, until
bubbly. Serve with crackers, pita chips or raw vegetables.
To cook the collards, slice away and discard the stems.
Stack the leaves and cut into strips. Bring 4 to 6 water or
a mix of water and chicken broth to boil in a large pot.
Stir in the collards. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and
simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour,
until very soft.
About 6 cups.
"Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the
Seasons," by Steven Satterfield (Harper Wave, 2015).
bunch collards, about 1 1/2 pounds
cup kosher salt
small head garlic, peeled and finely chopped
cup fish sauce
teaspoons ground arbol chile
bunch green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
medium purple-top turnip, peeled, thinly sliced and
the collard leaves from their stems. Chop the leaves into
bite-size pieces and slice the stems into 1/2-inch pieces.
large bowl, whisk together 1 gallon water and 1/4 cup salt
until the salt is dissolved. Put the collard greens and
stems into the water and let sit for 2 hours. Place a weight
on top to keep the greens submerged if necessary.
the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, ground chile and honey in a
large bowl. Add the green onions and turnip and toss.
the collards from the salted water. Rinse and squeeze out
excess water. Add the greens to the spice mixture and toss
well. Put everything in a large glass or ceramic container
with a tight lid. Store in a cool, dark place at room
temperature for 2 to 3 days, opening the lid daily to let
the gases escape and assess the flavor.
covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 months.