Category Archives: Vegetarian

How Do You Cook Collard Greens?

Collard Greens

I actually get questions from people about vegetables a lot, even at the grocery store.  On more than one occasion, the cashier has asked me what a produce item is (just for the purposes of looking up the code for it), but then gone as far as to ask me how I cook it.  I always find it a little unnerving to answer the question right on the spot, but I’ve realized that there are just a lot of people who are just curious what to do with certain fruits and vegetables.  Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on anything (persimmons still remain a mystery to me), but my mother was the kind of adventurous eater that made me excited to try new things.  The fact that she sometimes made it seem like we were hiding something from my dad (a notoriously picky, boring eater) made it all the more intriguing.  Artichokes and pomegranates are fun to eat, but a lot more fun when it seems like you are doing it on the sly.

So, here now is a series dedicated to fruits and vegetables (“How do you…”).  Some will be ordinary to you, some might be unfamiliar.  It is the great thing about the world wide web – there are a billions of perspectives for each post.

Gonna start with collard greens.  Now, I never really ate collard greens as a kid, but when I did, it was in the south and they were simmered for a long time along with some kind of smoked meat, and most often seasoned with hot sauce to taste. They were good. Really good.  However, I don’t usually have the foresight to plan a day-long cooking process for dinner, unless it is a weekend or a special event.  Through some recipe research (and trial and error), I figured out a way to make quick, tasty collard greens in two versions – one  vegetarian and one omnivorous.

The technique is for both is the same. The trickiest part is taking out the tough center rib, which you don’t do when cooking collards in the southern American way, since they cook so long that the ribs become tender. Here’s a little demo on how to do it:

Next, you just roll the leaves into the tightest bundle you can and slice them pretty thinly – like this:

Sliced Collards

Again, when you make collards in the southern style, you just tear the leaves and don’t need to slice them so thinly, since they cook for so long. You want thin slices for this new version, since the cooking time is so short.

Once you have the leaves all sliced, place them into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water – many greens, especially those from farmer’s markets, tend to be rather dirty. Once clean, heat a deep pot large enough to hold all the greens on medium high with a few tablespoons of olive thrown in.

Next, you have the choice of being meaty 0r veggie. For veggie (shown here), throw in a few cloves (five, in this case) of minced garlic until fragrant. For a meaty version, you can add diced ham or Canadian bacon instead of (or in addition to) the garlic. Either way, you will want to add the greens, which will still be somewhat wet from the rinsing process, to the pot before the garlic starts to burn. The water on the greens will create some steam, so capture it by putting a lid on the pot immediately. Stir occasionally until the collards are bright green and glossy, like this:

Glossy Greens

Season with salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes, if you like) to taste. Grab a fork and make sure that they are done to your liking and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Enjoy with or without hot sauce. I had mine with pork chops. =)


Super Bowl Food: Pizza!


Okay, so I posted on Facebook that I was super-pleased with the response to my Shrimp n’ Grits post and that I was looking for ideas on what to post next. I have quite a few idea/pictures in the queue, but my buddy Alex (see his comedic offerings linked on the right there) suggested that Super Bowl food would be appropriate choice. Then, my friend Keith (see his funny blog on the right there, too!) mentioned pizza, so the decision was made. Granted, I don’t think that I have all that much to contribute to the plethora of pizza recipes out there, but I know what I like, and maybe my tastes will be new to some.

First off, I really like whole wheat crust. For me, white crust is great when someone else makes it, but if I am going to bother making ‘za from scratch, I am gonna switch up everything, top(pings) to bottom. The recipe we use is just a variation on the one in the Joy of Cooking, which the Bun adapted for use with whole wheat flour.*

As for toppings, there are several that we turn to when making homemade pizza, most of which are on the vegetarian side. In fact, the pizza shown above is one that we made when our friends Mark and Erica decided to challenge us to a vegetarian week of dinners; it was a good way to get ourselves to think about how to get a balanced meal without eating meat. You’ll see that we used a red sauce (just crushed tomatoes seasoned with fresh garlic, dried oregano, salt and pepper). Over the sauce, we added mushrooms sauteed with thyme, roasted red peppers, spinach (thawed from frozen), Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, and fresh basil, which elevates the flavor of most red-sauce pizzas. The result was so delicious that we couldn’t even wait to take a picture before we’d both had an enormous slice. If you are looking for a veggie pizza (and provided that you still eat cheese), this combination can’t be beat.

*There are several good brands of whole wheat flour available these days, including a few that say you can use them in place of regular all-purpose flour (I suggest testing a recipe out on yourself before serving guests). Trader Joe’s brand is the one we used in this recipe, and it worked really well. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Roasted Vegetable Stock

Sorry I don’t have a pic of this one for you guys, but I haven’t had to make it in a long time.  I generally figure that, if I am going to go through the effort of making stock, I better make a bunch to freeze so that I’ll always have some around.  Vegetable stock is tricky to me, because it can come out tasting pretty bland and lifeless.  I’ve experimented a lot with it, and I find that garlic and herbs are really the best way to punch up the flavor.  Regarding tomatoes, I leave it up to you.  They can really overpower the flavor, if you are not careful, and if you are the kind of person who likes tomatoes in your soups, anyway, it may be best to leave them out of the stock.  That said, they really add an incredible richness in this roasted vegetable version.  For me, the roasting is really what brings out the great flavor of the vegetables; they brown and caramelize in the oven, and then lend that flavor to the stock when you cook it on top of the stove.  Like chef Anne Burrell says, “brown food tastes good!” 

With October upon us and the weekend coming up, I think it is probably a good time to start stocking up on stock.  This recipe is a good place to start, especially if you can make it to a farmer’s market this weekend for all of the ingredients.  In the end, it may seem like a waste to sap all of the flavor out of the vegetables and then throw them away, but remember that all of the remnants can be composted, so you’ll be contributing to the soil for next year’s crop of vegetables.  Plus, just think of all the amazing things you can make with this stock:  vegetarian minestrone, delicious risotto, and corn and bean chili!  A big batch will go a long way into the cold months, so make some up now and enjoy throughout the season!

Roasted Vegetable Stock