Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Going Green(s)

My husband, Lee, LOVES "greens". He is from the South. I am from Southern California. I didn't grow up with greens and had no idea how to cook them, even though I adore cooking and am very adventurous when trying new recipes and unknown foods. The only greens I knew about were head lettuce salads with blue cheese dressing and broccoli that was boiled within an inch of it's life, served with a cheese-like sauce. Oh yes... and green bean casserole made from cans of green beans with cans of cream of mushroom soup.  I love my mother. However, she is an admitted bad cook and maybe it was because of her "out of a can or box" kind of cooking that she did in the 1960's, that I became interested in what real food might taste like.

So, my first try at any kind of "greens" cooking was an extremely simple recipe for Kale Chips. They turned out perfectly and Lee and I ate the whole batch. What a fantastic way to get your green vitamins into you and avoid greasy potato chips at the same time. There are many recipes available online, but my inspiration was from a show I saw on Food Network called "Down Home with the Neely's". They add a bit of brown sugar to the kale and it compliments the bitterness in a salty-sweet, kettle-corn kind of way. 
Here's the link for the recipe:

My second attempt at cooking greens was just last night and again, we ate the whole batch. In an effort to keep both my husband and myself from becoming overweight, sometimes I will serve a vegetarian meal. If Lee had his way, we'd have meat and potatoes every night. But I say, you can eat anything you want in life as long as you don't eat too much of anything.  Back to the greens.
I went to visit my dad this past weekend and my step-mother gave me this recipe (my dad's folks were from the south - Georgia, to be exact) and dad loves greens too. After searching the web for other recipes, I find that they are all somewhat similar, but since Lee knows his greens and gave his whole-hearted approval to my efforts, this is the recipe I'm going to stick with. I made some changes and added one thing that I think made a lovely difference. Below is the recipe. After that I'll explain the changes I made.

Collard Greens with Red Onions and Bacon (8 servings)

1/2 lb bacon (8 slices) cut crosswise into quarters
3 medium red onions, coarsely chopped (4 cups)
1 1/4 C chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/4 C cider vinegar
2 TBL packed brown sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp salt
4 lbs collard greens, thick stems and center ribs discarded, leaves and thin stems coarsely chopped

Cook bacon in two batches in 6-8 qt heavy pot over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but about 3 TBL of fat from pot. Cook onions in fat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, transfer onions to bowl.
Add stock, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and half of bacon to pot and simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Add half the collards, tossing until slightly wilted, then add remaining collards, tossing until wilted and combined. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Stir in onions and simmer, covered, until collards are very tender, about 30 minutes more.
Serve topped with remaining bacon.

MY changes:
I had one bag of Trader Joes Mixed Greens which had collard, mustard, turnip and spinach greens). This bag was only 1 lb (next time I will buy two bags) which meant I needed to quarter the recipe. I used 4 slices of Trader Joes Apple Smoked Bacon (SO yummy) and cooked it in one batch until just crispy. I took the bacon out and left ALL the fat in the pot (fat is flavor!). In went the onions (I used yellow because that's what I had). When the onions were translucent, I added about 3C Trader Joes Chicken Broth, 1 TBL cider vinegar, 1 tsp brown sugar, and a dash of pepper flakes. Then I added MY SECRET INGREDIENT: a dash or two of Smoked Paprika. Then I dumped the whole bag of greens in the pot and after about 5 minutes, I put the bacon back in the pot. I let that simmer for about 45 minutes while I made some cornbread. NOW comes the most important part! (according to Lee). When you have eaten the greens and have some juice in the bottom of your bowl, you must break up a piece of the cornbread into that juice (the Southerners call it "Pot Likker"), mash it a bit and eat it with a spoon.
It was heavenly.

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