I don’t know about you, but I am terribly familiar with collard greens.
I feel like I spent years of my life sitting in the kitchen with my mother, washing off each individual leaf, cutting every single cell off that stem and pressing them down deep into that pot. I’d always roll my eyes whenever she put those giant hamhocks in there, but all would be well once I saw the dumplings go in the pot.
Now, I know that if I want to eat as cheaply as possible in the winter, I’ve got to eat collards regularly. I also know that, in order to maintain my sanity, I have to have multiple ways to eat them. I also know that I can’t eat collards and dumplings every single day. Like, don’t get me in a room with a pot of good dumplings. Just… don’t.
That being said, I had to learn. And learn, I did, that’s for sure.
Collards are kale’s stronger, more flavorful, more durable, and more versatile cousin. There is nothing that you can get in a leaf of kale that you couldn’t get from a leaf of collard greens. Texture notwithstanding, they’re practically the same thing.
If you’re lactose intolerant – or simply not a fan of milk – collards are one of the best natural sources of calcium you could imagine. Vitamins A, C, and K abound here. Fiber? Fuhgeddaboutit. There’s a reason why people “have to be careful how much greens they eat.” Even when boiled down into submission, collard greens still pack a crazy punch.
Quality collards should be both sweet and bitter. They should be durable – meaning, yes, a challenge to chew. They’re not romaine – they shouldn’t crumble at the sight of your teeth – nor do you want them to be. Nothing packs more nutrition in one punch than a collard green leaf, scoring almost a perfect score on the ANDI scale and putting up a perfect ten on the nutrition boards.
The size of the leaves in the bunch you choose is totally up to you and how you use it. If you’re braising – that is, boiling – your greens or using them to make wraps, you’ll want the largest-sized leaves you can get your paws on. However, the best-tasting collards actually aren’t that large in size – they’re actually quite a bit smaller, far more tender than their overgrown siblings, and scarcely larger than your face.
The deeper in color, the better. If your greens have begun to fade or turn yellow, it means they weren’t stored properly and have begun to dry out. Avoid those bunches at all costs.
If you find a leaf that’s been chewed through, ignore it. As you’re prepping your leaves, you’ll just cut around the chewed part, and toss that in the trash.
Store your greens as far away from the apples, bananas, and oranges as possible, but still refrigerate them. I tell people that, if they have a fridge, store your leafy greens in one drawer, and your other stuff elsewhere. The “other stuff” gives off ethylene gases that leech moisture out of the leafy greens, causing them to dry out and lose flavor prior to cooking.
You actually don’t cook them at all. This time, we’re going raw, baby.
What, you trust me, don’t you?
The last time I went to the farmer’s market, I was pleased with how much came in a single batch of collard greens. One batch was enough for a giant pot. Awesome!
Except, the last time I bought some at a grocery store, I received eight giant leaves – yes, just eight – in my batch, and the price was almost $0.50 higher than my market batch. Now, I know how to deal with that, but what if you don’t? What if all I could have access to is these pricey collard greens, and I’m working with a limited budget? (I often like to joke about how, even when I’ve got the money, that doesn’t mean I want to spend the money!)
That means I’ve got to learn how to stretch my dollars… and my collards. As much nutrition for as little price as possible.
Hence, the collard green chiffonade.
You might remember this photo from the “Crafting Your Own Vinaigrette” recipe I posted a week or so ago. The dark-n-leafies in the photo? Totally collard greens.
A chiffonade is actually a great way to turn a little bit of leaves into a lot of lettuce for a salad. You can put a little bit of a lot of different things into a bowl and make magic. With collards, it’s no different.
Take your leaves, one by one, and use your hands to tear each side of the leaf away from the stem.
If you run into something that looks like the below, tear the leaf from the stem as above, but tear this part off of the leaf and throw it out.
Take all of your balled up leaves, and begin to roll them up into a tight tube.
Your leaves should look something similar to this once finished with rolling. Don’t worry about it being perfect – just make sure it’s wound pretty neatly under your hand.
With your knife, begin to chop across the roll, like below. Then, once finished, chop horizontally down the center of the roll, the long way.
What you have now, is your collard green chiffonade. Now, how the hell do you make it edible?
Add colorful stuff to it.
Take a cup and a half of chickpeas, and sprinkle them with 1/8th teaspoon ground cinnamon, a pinch of ground cloves, 1/8th teaspoon paprika, a half-teaspoon of ground fennel seed (mine isn’t ground in the photo because lazy, but you should be smarter than me! or just leave it out!) and a pinch of salt, and mix them up together.
Dump them in your giant mixing bowl.
Add it to the pot and mix. Thoroughly. I’m talking two hands, in the bowl, practically putting your foot in ‘nem greens.
And, before you know it, you’ve got something amazing.
The vinaigrette carefully masks the potential bitterness of the greens. The greens combined with the chickpeas provide plenty of protein. You’ve got a proverbial rainbow in here.
Four giant collard green leaves cut into a chiffonade game me enough salad to last almost three days.
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