Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Collard Greens


Collard greens are a staple most southern gardeners value. Collard greens are dark, leafy and full of vitamins. Collard greens, with their slightly bitter taste and chewy texture are misunderstood creatures of the vegetable world. A Collard greens recipe, by tradition, is generally not for those 30 minute meals.
Any recipe that attempts to "tender up" these green giants in less than one hour is unlikely to arrive at the proper eating consistency. Like their cousin, mustard greens, tenderness is key to their palatability. Just put them in a large pot on a slow flame. One hint to use collard greens in any recipe is to cook them to tenderness, freeze them and they're ready for a quick meal when the desire for something dark, green and leafy is impossible to ignore. This is also true of turnip greens.
Southern cooking can be broken down into "high country" or "low country". "Low country" cooking is simple fare and utilizes the bounty of garden vegetables that grow in proliferation:
- rhubarb
- sugar beets
- sweet potato
- okra
- squash
- butter beans
- rutabaga
And greens:
- collard
- mustard
- turnip
- dandelion
Each of these vegetables is prepared in most southern kitchens with a flair that is unmistakably "southern" for family gatherings, especially at holidays and parties. There are special spices used to enhance the flavor of these vegetables such as curry, cumin, chili, cayenne or tumeric.
What gives low country cooking its unique flavor are the other ingredients added. For instance,a collard greens recipe might include:
- smoked ham
- smoked turkey
- ham hocks
- pork rind
This creates a meal in itself. The tempting scent of collard greens and ham hocks cooked in a large pot is a cameo cuisine image hard to ignore. It's a treat for the senses that always the most popular in southern households and is fast becoming as popular in northern kitchens as well. These are foods that are healthy, contrary to popular perception because they incorporate the most nourishing vegetables with small amounts of meat. A collard greens recipe may contain smoked turkey or smoked ham. Adding a bit of chopped onion also enhances the flavor. Turnip greens cooked with ham hocks and tomatoes fills the air with a divine fragrance helped by a dash of chili or cumin. A melange of three greens, collards, turnip and mustard have a zip when tomatoes, green peppers and garlic are added. With a hint of curry, the flavor mellows just enough to satisfy the soul of any vegetarian. Add a spritz of fresh basil and the aroma morphs into a regal dish fit for a king.
The world of low country cooking is fast becoming the new Americana cuisine. The variety and combinations available to cooks is virtually endless. A collard greens recipe for these tender, dark green leafy wonders becomes a masterpiece when partnered by smoked meats and the right spices and herbs. They can be served as a side dish or main course for dinner. With garlic/cheese grits and eggs, they make breakfast fare unforgettable.
Ian Pennington is an accomplished niche website developer and author.
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