Friday, May 20, 2011

When the vegetables won out

Braised collards
My parents are very different people. My mother is about as straight-laced and sensible as they come. She was the one who made sure I flossed, took me to the library on weekends, and drilled me on multiplication at the bus stop (before my class was even being taught multiplication, of course). My father, by comparison, is thoughtful and open-hearted but a bit of an oddball. He was the one who taught me how to ride a bicycle and to skate, helped me dig up the garden looking for worms (to my mother's chagrin), and let me watch films I probably shouldn't have at the time (what is a five or six year-old supposed to make of Tim Burton's Batman Returns?). As you might imagine, then, there were a number of deep and extended disagreements in our household about what would be best for me--not the last of which being what I should eat. My mother grew us string beans, tomatoes, and strawberries in the garden. My father came home laden with crisp-skinned, roasted pork shoulders, ice cream, and french fries. Call it a battle for my young palate (and my arteries), if you will.
The green things eventually won out. I grew up loving broccoli and determinedly continued to eat vegetables--and lots of them--even through my undergrad days away from home. And now, all through the winter here--a winter mostly of root vegetables and canned San Marzanos--my most frequent complaint to my boyfriend was this: "We're not eating enough vegetables!"
Now, a lot of this is just our laziness. When we're busy writing, which is most of the time, we tend to favour one-pot dinners. An extra side of vegetables on some nights is just too much to muster. But it's also that we live in the Midwest, and the winter produce just doesn't inspire. You can only braise so much cabbage and roast so many carrots. We've been trying to remedy this lately with a weekly delivery service that gives priority to regional produce. It's been working so far. Though the boxes are still partly supplemented with some Californian produce, we've been getting a good lot of regional stuff--overwintered spinach, just dug sunchokes, and, of course, the season's very first greens.
Here's something I cooked up from what we so happened to find in our produce box over the past couple of weeks. It's a preparation of collard greens, something I'd never had up until that point. I had been under the impression that collards would be tough and bitter and take a lot of cooking to be edible (collards aren't really a thing where I come from), so I was taken aback when I sampled a spoonful of them after a quick braise in some vegetable stock--so tender and with only the slightest hint of bitterness. I will definitely be eating a lot collards this way next winter. Tossed with a handful of creamy beans or crowned with a poached egg and with some crusty bread alongside, these make a meal.

Braised Collards
1 medium bunch of collard greens (about 10 leaves), stems removed
2 small onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of good vegetable stock
Olive oil
Sea salt
1 cup of cooked beans

In a medium-sized pot, warm about 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions in the oil until soft and golden, 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the collards, cutting them into ribbons first and then chopping those crosswise.
Add the garlic and greens a garlic to the pot and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the greens wilted, 1-2 minutes.
Add the vegetable stock--just enough to cover--and bring to a boil. Then, reduce to a simmer, covered for 25-30 minutes. Stir in beans and salt to taste.
Serves 2


  1. This is so awesome Katie. Love collards and asparagus and your presentation of them. These delicious dishes will be on my plate this week. When we were in Maui, every morning I would pan roast the local asparagus on high heat for a few seconds then lay them on olive oiled crusty bread, grate some lemon zest on top and then finish with creamy feta. Under the broiler for two mintutes and omg.
    We had that every day for the ten days we were there :).

  2. That sounds fantastic. I'll have to give that a try soon. I like that it only needs a couple of minutes under the broiler. It's getting too hot in Chicago to turn on the oven for any extended period of time! Now I just have to determine whether the broiler here actually works...(the stove in our rental is probably thirty years old--it is literally rust-eaten and slowly crumbling away).

  3. The asparagus looks great! um I think i could be a vegetarian because i always chose veggie over meat.

    yum braised anything is good.