May 4, 2016

Get Acquainted with COLLARD GREENS

Ready to cook Collard Greens
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If you haven't tried collards, you should get acquainted with these amazing greens! Collard greens were a staple in my parents house when I lived in the Southern states of the U.S.. Now that I live in Hawaii, I miss these robust greens. Unfortunately they are not available in Moloka'i grocery stores, instead I usually have to settle for kale, or bok choy, which is similar in color, but isn't quite the same thing. 

It turns out that collard greens are part of the cabbage family, but unlike cabbage, collard greens are dark green vegetables like broccoli or kale. But more than anything, collards are delicious, and good for you! Collards are high in vitamins B6, C, E, K, A, as well as calcium, folate, beta-carotene, iron and fiber, and have been linked to lowered cholesterol, plus, their antioxidants may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
My Collard Green Seedlings

In most states, the peak season for collard greens is January through April, but it Hawaii, you can grow them year-round. I decided to buy some seeds at Hikiola Cooperative here on Moloka'i, and grow my own collard greens. I put two or three seeds in a little soil, and in just 3 days, the little plants started to appear. I thought to myself, this is really easy, why didn't I try growing collards before?

After the seedlings grew up a little, I transplanted them into my vegetable garden. Soon the leaves were big enough to eat and small enough to be tender (see photo above). 

There are dozens of ways to cook collards. They can be tough if the leaves get too large, and gritty from garden soil, so before cooking, wash them in several changes of cool water until no dirt remains. Their thick stalks are usually too tough to eat and should be removed; to do so, simply hold on to the bottom of the stem with one hand and pull the leafy part off with your other hand, then cut them into 3/4 inch strips.

Southern-style collard greens should be cooked with smoked ham hocks. They are also an excellent addition to beans, soups and stews, but are required in my recipe for collard greens. I get my smoked ham hocks from Kualapuu Market because they are big and meaty. Friendly Market usually has smaller ones with less meat.

If you have a vegetable garden, try growing this Southern vegetable, I think you will like it. Collards are usually considered a side dish. In the South, they are served along side fried chicken, fried catfish, pork chops with red beans and rice, and sweet corn bread. My mouth is watering!

Southern-Style Collard Greens
Southern-Style Collard Greens, are a side dish served in Southern homes all year round. It's a traditional favorite for New Years Day as the greens are supposed to bring wealth for the New Year. Here on Moloka'i, collard greens can be hard to find, but I have found them at our farmers market on a couple of occasions, plus I have actually grown them in my back yard with great success.

1 pound of fresh collard greens, washed well and chopped.
1 large meaty smoked ham hock (at least 2 pounds)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of hot sauce or in Hawaii, chili pepper water
1 tablespoon of butter
3 quarts of water

Place 3 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Wash and scrub the Ham Hock well, cut into sections and add to the boiling water. Let ham hock simmer for about 30 minutes on medium heat.

Wash the collard greens scrubbing each leaf under cool running water until clean. Fold each collard leaf in half, either in your hand or on your cutting board. Pull the leaf section away from the stem. Discard stems. Stack a couple of leaves together on your cutting board. Begin at one end and roll the leaves up tightly. Then, cut lengthwise down the center of the roll. Squeeze the cut sections back together, rotate and cut the roll into about 3/4 inch strips. Add leaves to the pot with the Ham Hock pieces, a little at a time, let them cook down a minute and then add more. Reduce heat to a low simmer, leave the pot uncovered and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Chop the onions and chop or mince the garlic cloves. In a small saucepan on medium low heat, add the butter and let it melt. Add the chopped onions and garlic to the butter and sauté until onions are translucent. Add the cooked onions and garlic to your stock pot with the collard leaves. Add salt, sugar, black pepper and Hot Sauce in amounts listed. Stir well. Let simmer another 15 minutes or until the collards are as tender as you prefer.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the greens and place in a bowl. Let the liquid continue to simmer.
Remove the ham hock, chop the meatier portions into small pieces and return to the liquid. Return the chopped collard greens to the liquid and stir well. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Cornbread goes well with Collard Greens. Some folks like to dip their cornbread in the "potlikker" or liquid from the Collard Greens, and eat it that way.

Cream of Collard Green-Potato Soup
This is a great way to make an elegant, but simple soup out of collard greens. I love this thick, creamy soup... and so will you!

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
smoked ham hocks, 2 pounds total
5 cups of water
5 packed cups of rinsed collard greens, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
6 medium-sized Russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more if you like
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons of sour cream for taste and garnish

In a soup pot, simmer the chopped onion with vegetable oil until it starts to caramelize and turn golden, but not burnt.

Add the ham hocks and water, and bring to a simmer for 2 hours, uncovered. Now add the chopped potatoes and continue cooking until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes more. Remove the ham hock to a cutting board to cool.

Add the cream and cayenne pepper to the soup. Now, using an immersion blender, or food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to your taste, and keep warm on low heat.

Remove the meat from the ham hock in small pieces, removing bones, and tough or fatty pieces. Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream in the middle and ham hock pieces sprinkled around on top. Serve with hot crusty bread and butter on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: You can eliminate the ham hock and use chopped smoked sausage, or chopped ham instead. Personally I like the flavor of the smoked ham hocks, even if it is a little chewy.

For more of my SOUTHERN RECIPES click here.

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