My grandmother always said a meal wasn’t complete without something green. She just as often included braised collards as broccoli or spinach at a meal. And it turns out, my grandmother’s desire for a pretty plate was also a great way to have a variety of greens that packed a nutritional punch.
Collards oversized leaves deliver big nutrition. One-half cup of cooked collards delivers nearly four grams fiber (about 1/6 of daily needs) — that’s roughly the same amount as the fiber in a cup of cooked brown rice. Just like many greens, collards supply an abundance of the fat-soluble vitamins A and K: more than four times one’s daily needs of vitamin K and more than 100% a day’s needs of vitamin A. With more than 20 percent of daily vitamin C requirements, more than 10 percent of daily calcium needs and about five percent of iron needs, collards really deliver in the good-for-you department.
And they deliver in the kitchen, too. Used raw, sautéed, steamed, or stir-fried, collards can be featured in everything from sides to entrées.
Quickly cooked side: I’m still a fan of the old-school cooked preparation, but this recipe doesn’t overdo them, so the collards still have a pleasant chew to them (instead of being lifeless). Another great option is to leave the stemmed greens raw.
Raw: Make a super salad like this Cobb-inspired one with its winning combo of collards, white beans, sweet peppers, avocado and blue cheese.
Stir-fried: If you want a familiar format, try stir-frying collard greens and their stems: chop the stems and sauté with the other aromatics; then stir-fry the thinly sliced greens for a few minutes at the end of cooking.
At breakfast: If you’re more adventurous in the morning, try them in a breakfast application, such as these English muffin sandwiches, which give the collards a quick turn in the pan before layering with bacon, bell pepper and yogurt spread.
For a main dish: Because the greens are sturdy and barely bitter, they also work well tossed with roasted sweet potatoes and beans for a hearty vegetarian entrée. Or treat the large leaves as a wrap for a sandwich: simply steam leaves until bright green and tender.
No matter how you choose to try your collards, always buy crisp, dark green, firm leaves. (Keep in mind that collards cook down a lot; one pound of fresh untrimmed leaves may serve two to three diners. Be prepared to buy what may feel like a crazy amount!) Remove the stems and ribs or bruised leaves, and wash the collards in a sink full of water. You may need to wash and rinse several times if the leaves are particularly sandy. Drain the leaves in a colander, dry them and store in resealable plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the fridge. The collards will last for several days and are ready to toss in to salads, stir-fries or braises in no time. Here’s a video with helpful tips to get going with this old green that can quickly become a new favorite.
Have you used collards to complete your meal? What is your favorite preparation?