I simply Googled “recipes for collard greens”. On the Internet appeared screen after screen of recipes entitled “Veggie Side Dishes—Collard Greens” from the website called Nikibone.com. I was agog at the dozens of ways to prepare this vegetable with which I never had fraternized much previously.
I promise you I won’t go extreme and try each one for this blog, although doing so would be tempting. I spotted nothing in the assemblage that didn’t seem terrific. But (partly because I needed to use up some ground turkey in the fridge) I did settle on “Salsa-Stuffed Collard Greens” as my first attempt. I did so because this calls for the greens to be rolled up around a meat filling (think of the popular Greek recipe for dolmades, in which a stuffing is rolled around a grape leaf); our collard leaves are so wide, they seemed as though they were great candidates. Hubby and I love Greek cuisine; this recipe with the collards seemed like a south-of-the-border twist on an exotic favorite.
That’s the part at which my process almost fell apart. (Emergency blog? I started to panic as my first few efforts at rolling the collard leaves derailed.) The recipe asks the cook to rinse the fresh-from-the-garden leaves, lie them flat, and cut out the bottom portion of the center vein, and cook the leaf in boiling water for about 5 minutes. At the end of the 5-minute boiling-water bath, the collard leaf had withered into a small ball that barely filled a tablespoon—hardly suitable for lying flat and stuffing. Five minutes clearly was too long to boil the leaves. Instead I merely dipped each in the boiling water just long enough for it to soften and become un-crispy; then I quickly spirited each over to waiting paper towels. I spread each leaf out to dry and blotted the tops to remove excess liquid. This will work; no emergency blog needed, I tried to reassure myself.
The whole process was a bit time-consuming and something I definitely wouldn’t attempt for a dinner-in-a-jiffy, but the look of all the stuffed collard leaves nudging each other in the bubbling sauce and the resulting wonderful flavor of the end product made everything worthwhile. Plus the stuffing made enough to fill at least an additional half-dozen leaves, so I can make up another batch in a few days.
In later blogs watch out for such goodies as Greens Casserole with Mozzarella, Mess o’ Greens Salad with Warm Pecan Dressing, or Collard Greens with Tomatoes. Your horizons will be expanded as mine have been. Who knew the humble collard was so versatile?
Salsa-Stuffed Collard Greens
12 large, fresh collard green leaves
1 pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cups hot cooked brown rice
4 cups salsa (mild, medium or hot), according to taste (I used mild; recipe was plenty spicy)
4 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly wash collard leaves; gently shake off excess water. Lay leaves flat to cut out bottom portion of center vein; do not cut leaves in half; keep leaves whole. Dip leaves one at a time in boiling water; remove immediately as soon as the leaf softens (30-45 seconds at the most. Do not leave in water more than this.) Repeat until all leaves are cooked. Spread cooked leaves flat on paper towels to drain. Blot top side. In large skillet cook the ground beef, onion, and celery together until beef is done and onions and celery are soft. Drain fat; stir in rice, taco seasoning, and 2 cups of salsa. Add salt to taste. Mix well. On each flattened collard leaf place about 1/2-cup filling. Spread evenly. Fold in left and right sides of the leaf about 1 inch. Starting at the unfolded end of the leaf, roll up the leaf and enclose the beef mixture. Repeat until leaves all are filled. Place stuffed leaves in a buttered, 3-quart baking dish; cover with remaining two cups salsa. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Top with cheese; bake 5 more minutes. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.