Vegetarian collard greens
April 3, 2007 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I want to make delicious collard greens, but I want them to be healthy and vegetarian (so, no pork fat). I've tried a couple recipes I found online, but the results have been uninspiring (and the greens didn't strike me as nearly tender enough, even after an hour of boiling). Any advice? Any recipes?
posted by Plutor to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
You have to have some kind of fat, to break down the greens and to give a satisfying mouth feel. I've made broccoli rabe, collard greens, and cabbage, all using the vegan type of Smart Balance. I think olive oil would work nicely too. Basically I use a little fat and a little vegan stock - together they do a nice job of flavoring and breaking down the greens. You can get vegan broth/ stock in a pour-out carton at most supermarkets.
posted by iconomy at 12:38 PM on April 3, 2007

Another nice addition is a nice thick piece of seaweed, like kombu, that can add a nice smoky flavor to beans and greens. Some folks might not like this approach as kombu is rich in glutamic acid, a major constituent in MSG. But it does make vegetarian dishes taste meaty.
posted by OmieWise at 12:46 PM on April 3, 2007

Did you chop the greens first? Remove the thick stem parts and roll up the leaf parts. Slice the rolls to produce short strips of greens.

As far as flavor I use some onions and garlic in there, and I cook it all in beef stock but you could use vegetable stock. Also, some fat is needed as iconomy said so use some olive oil. I use some bacon and a tiny bit of leftover bacon fat for this and its awesome. Finally when you serve it try splashing a little vinegar on there.
posted by jockc at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2007

When we cook collard greens, we buy them from a farmer's market (or otherwise somewhere where they're pretty fresh). We then heat some ghee in a pan and put in some mustard seeds (a little more than a tablespoon for one "bunch" of greens). When the seeds start popping (usually after just a few minutes) you can throw in the collards. They only need to cook for about five minutes. Salt them lightly and serve. You can also put in some pepper flakes for a spicy kick.

As for the tender consistency, I'm not sure. I didn't eat collards before I started preparing them this way, so I don't expect them to be a certain way. I guess I'd say they have some texture to them prepared the way I described, but I don't find them unreasonably chewy at all.

(Also I chop the collards into pretty thin strips as jockc describes)
posted by Slothrop at 12:51 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cooking the greens then allowing them to sit overnight in the refrigerator helps tenderize them, too. We have a big New Years Day brunch every year, and we do most of the cooking the day before, both for convenience and tastiness.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:51 PM on April 3, 2007

No boil! No boil! Just braise them Italian style like spinach. Here's what I do:

Tear the leaves off the stems and put the stems in the compost heap. Rinse the leaves in a colander or salad spinner (not necessary to dry them; leave them dripping).

Slice a clove of garlic thinly. In a heavy pot, heat about 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Add garlic, saute briefly but don't brown it.

Then take about 1/2 cup of water with a dash of salt in it and dump it into the pot. Add the wet greens, cover the pot (turn heat down slightly so water doesn't all burn off) and stir occasionally as they cook down, until they are a fabulous, mood-enhancing shade of bright green.

Taste a leaf to make sure it's tender enough. When done, remove from pot with slotted spoon and gobble them up, feeling virtuous about all the nutrients you're gettting. This takes like ten minutes, tops.
posted by scratch at 12:58 PM on April 3, 2007

No recipes, but some thoughts (from a girl from Tennessee with a passion for greens):

An hour would be the minimum cooking time for greens. I eat tons of kale and mustard greens and chard cooked in a more modern, saute and briefly braise style, but when I think of true Southern greens, those should be much softer. I don't think it's necessary to cook them nigh unto a paste like my grandmother does, but I would go longer than an hour. Just remember to drink the juices (a.k.a. pot likker) as that's where all the vitamins end up.

Also, lacking pork, you need to work extra hard to add levels of flavor from other sources. I've seen some recipes that use beer as part of the braising liquid, which might be a good idea. Also consider cooking them in a high quality, homemade vegetable stock. Make sure you give any onion, garlic, peppers or similar a good, long saute before you add any liquid. A bit of caramelized flavor would probably help add richness. Consider using butter for the saute as well; the fattiness would be more similar to the pork fattiness.

But really, to my mind the biggest challenge would be that finding something to add that elusive smoky flavor that tempers the bitterness of the greens. Dried porcini mushrooms might work. They aren't smoked but are packed with umami that could have a similar effect(and if I'm not mistaken, there might also be such a thing as smoked dried mushrooms that could be great if they exist).

I believe that smoked tofu is sometimes used as a veggie substitute, as in this recipe. If it were me, I'd probably just add some Spanish smoked paprika. It's a marvelous ingredient that adds a truly rich, smoky flavor and aroma to all kinds of things. I've used it in bean dishes being served to veggie friends (when I would typically have added back) with quite satisfactory results.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:58 PM on April 3, 2007

Jockc hinted at it above, but you don't mention in your question... are you making sure to splash the greens with pepper vinegar before you eat them? Makes all the difference.
posted by saladin at 1:07 PM on April 3, 2007

As long as you add vinegar (normally apple cjider vinegar - and don't be afraid to add quite a bit) then they should be fine without the pork fat (or any fat for that matter). I like the addition of mustard seeds as well. Not only does the vinegar make them tase better, but it also tenderizes the greens. (water / salt / pepper)

BTW, did you know that in Chinese Traditional Medicine, spring time is the time to take care of / clean the liver? Eating lots of leafy greens (collard, kale, etc) is one of the ways you can do this. In addition: herbal teas that include: alfalfa, dandelion, nettle and peppermint are great (the addition of rose makes the taste less "earthy").
posted by DKD at 1:13 PM on April 3, 2007

Our favorite recipe for greens is this one from Alton Brown. We do a mixed saute/braise, though, because we've found just sauteing doesn't cook the greens enough. The combination of lemon juice and red pepper makes for a bright spicy flavor.
posted by needled at 1:20 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Boiling?? Good god. I just throw em in a pan with olive oil, a ton of garlic, a very small touch of lemon juice, and a splash of white wine. Fresh ground pepper plus a bit of salt and the let them simmer till tender. Don't saute the garlic first.
posted by spicynuts at 1:29 PM on April 3, 2007

Large pot. Olive oil to coat the bottom. A couple cloves of garlic chopped and sauteing away. Toss the torn greens - I just tear them up roughly & compost the stems - in there bit by bit and stir; as they wilt add more greens and keep stirring. A can of vegetable broth (well, okay, I usually use chicken broth but I've done veggie too and it's just as good) and about 1/4 cup of tamari. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cook for about 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with hot pepper vinegar. Ambrosia.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:30 PM on April 3, 2007

I cut out the stem and eat them raw. I fill them with mango slices, savoy cabbage, pea shoots and bean sprouts and other yummies. They're great wraps. Best is when I do the above but first spread the leaves with red pepper paste/spread.
posted by dobbs at 1:40 PM on April 3, 2007

Many good suggestions above, but to throw another one on, cook them in browned butter for the caramelized flavor mostlymartha's talking about. (If that's insufficiently healthy, just use olive oil and add plenty of garlic, onion, kombu, red pepper flakes, whatever - I've tried to brown vegan margarine and it doesn't seem to work.)
posted by clavicle at 1:59 PM on April 3, 2007

You could try adding a little "toasted sesame oil", or some hot sesame oil (toasted oil that has picked up heat from the ground red pepper sitting in the bottom of the bottle).
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:01 PM on April 3, 2007

My favorite collard recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cookbook, which is also my favorite cookbook. Everyone I've ever made it for LOVES this recipe. Let me know if you're interested and I'll email it to you. (Email in profile)
posted by al_fresco at 2:15 PM on April 3, 2007

Wait! Here it is!
posted by al_fresco at 2:17 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding the smoked paprika! Makes 'em taste "meaty" but in a good way.
posted by agent99 at 2:43 PM on April 3, 2007

Another way to fake the pork flavor is to use sesame oil or "liquid smoke" (probably next to the bbq sauce at the store). They both have that umami you crave.

Oh yeah. Sautée in a pan, don't boil.
posted by adamrice at 2:49 PM on April 3, 2007

I highly recommend this Ethiopian recipe for collards. It makes use of the heavily seasoned clarified butter called niter kebbeh. There is no detectable bitterness with this recipe when prepared properly, and the butter and seasonings give it a good fullness of flavor, no meat required.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:52 PM on April 3, 2007

I've heard that a pressure cooker can do really good things for cooking greens. I haven't tried collards, but I can attest it does amazing things to lamb saag.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:41 PM on April 3, 2007

This recipe courtesy of my drunk girlfriend:
Saute onion, bell pepper, celery, do you want to add carrot? We used carrot. In olive oil until softened. Then toss in chopped garlic and stir so that it gets fragrant. Add chopped clean greens, stirring into the hot vegetables to wilt slightly. Add vegetable broth or salted water just enough to cover. Should have a small amount of vinegar. Tablespoon or so. Simmer til tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with peppered vinegar.
posted by ijoshua at 5:45 PM on April 3, 2007

My favorite technique (probably seen on America's Test Kitchen at some point) accounts for the fact that stems and leaves soften at different rates, and it adds a whiz-bang kick of umami at the end.

Separate the stems from the leaves, chop the stems into 1-inch lengths and the leaves into 1-inch strips. Make sure the leaves are rinsed and dried. Sautée the stems first in olive oil till they've softened, then dump in the leaves, a couple cloves of crushed garlic and some red pepper flakes. and cover with a lid until the leaves wilt a bit. Then add a cup or so of stock (I use chicken, but veggie would be fine) and let it simmer for a while until they're tender enough for you. While they're simmering, grate a cup or more of Parmesan cheese. Dump said grated Parmesan on the tender greens and mix well before serving. The Parm pretty much disappears into the greens, becoming the secret ingredient that makes it oh so good.

If you're going for the southern "pot liquor" flavor, throw some vinegar in with the stock and add some more before the Parmesan.
posted by danblaker at 7:06 PM on April 3, 2007

If your diet allows chicken broth you might try this one. I made it tonight and found it to be quite tasty and very easy...,,FOOD_9936_34743,00.html?rsrc=search
posted by bkeene12 at 7:12 PM on April 3, 2007

Another tasty vegetarian recipe is greens in peanut sauce.</a
posted by ijoshua at 7:16 PM on April 3, 2007

I start with a kind of broth when I cook greens - carrots, celery (+ leaves), onions, garlic, cajun seasoning, salt and peppercorns. I also use ham hocks, but that's outta the question. Cut up the carrots and stir them in when you serve the greens. You do need fat, so I kinda like the ghee suggestion, though I've never tried it.
posted by charlesv at 8:22 PM on April 3, 2007

Oh yeah, I also cook black-eyed peas with my greens. Also squirt on lemon juice after cooking.

Smushy peas give a creamy counterpoint to the greens and the acidic lemon juice.
posted by charlesv at 8:25 PM on April 3, 2007

Ok, here's what I do when making vegetarian greens. I prefer to make it with neckbones, but it's not always possible.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add a couple chopped onions, sautee over high heat. This part is key, let the onions burn a little bit, then add the greens, stirring to coat with the onion mixture. Add about two inches of water to the pot, about 1 cup of vinegar, couple teaspoons of salt and a tablespoon or so of balsamic, some hot sauce and whatever other seasoning you like. Let the greens simmer until the liquid is reduced and the greens are tender.
posted by electroboy at 8:55 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I try not to cook them, it destroys the flavor and vitamin/mineral content. I do steam some chunks of potato, then add the greens which have been shredded, to the potatos, then add some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper, chhopped onions and some hot red pepper flakes. Makes a nice salad, hot or cold.
posted by unhindered at 4:39 PM on April 7, 2007

« Older I'll pay, I swear. Just don't hurt my FICO!   |   Help me devise an Easter candy recipe that will... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.