Crostini with whipped feta and garlic collards

20160709_174408Collards get a bad rep. They are a vegetable that most consider married to one dish, and if that’s not a dish they cook, they don’t eat them. But I happen to know that collards are not married, or in a relationship of any kind. They are single as can be, and very experimental. Willing to partake in any meal of the day, and mix with a variety of ingredients.

This is my first year growing collards, and they’ve sprung up like weeds (even quicker than the kale!). If you want to make collards into a full meal, try them with peanut butter (really, it makes a quick peanut sauce!). Or make them into a salad (or try them in place of kale in any other salad). Or this cobbler I just discovered and will have to try soon. I’ve made this crostini for a couple parties recently, which is easy to transport, quick to assemble, and just another way to eat whipped feta. The leftovers have been enjoyed with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

See – collards are great! And versatile. Grow them, eat them, love them. People eating this appetizer won’t even realize they’re collards with all their predetermined baggage, and will fall in love with them too. Which is okay, because collards play the field.

Crostini with whipped feta and garlic collards

  • 1/2 lb collard greens (or 1 large bunch)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 baguette or loaf of another crusty bread

Remove the stems from the collards and chop the leaves into bite sized pieces.

Put the feta and cream cheese in a bowl of a food processor. Turn on the blade for a few seconds to combine, then pour in the 1/3 cup of olive oil. Process until smooth and uniformly combined.

In a large saute pan that has a cover, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the whole, peeled garlic clove and allow it to brown slightly in the oil, flipping a few times so it doesn’t burn. When it is golden, remove the garlic clove and add the collards. Cover, and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the cover, toss the greens, add the red pepper flakes, and continue to cook for a few minutes more uncovered until the extra liquid has evaporated.

When read to serve, slice the bread and toast under a broiler or on a grill. Slather with whipped feta, and top with the greens.

Last week I cooked….

This week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

A shorter cooking week than usual due to a long weekend. Easy weeknight meals with lots of produce are still the name of the game, followed by a happy break from the kitchen to taste my way through Brooklyn.

Roasted beer and lime cauliflower tacos. The rest of my beautiful purple cauliflower head went into this, plus a zucchini. I was working within the limits of my fridge so instead of the cabbage slaw I topped them with halved cherry tomatoes and chopped cucumber dressed with a little lime and salt, and a yogurt lime crema (pictured above).

Collards with peanut butter. Excellent recipe for the collard beginners, likely to win many converts.

The night before going away for a long weekend is usually a fridge clean out. For this one I crisped some bacon, removed it from the pan and drained off most of the fat. Then sauteed half an onion for a few minutes, followed by a clove of minced garlic and one chopped zucchini. When the zucchini was softened I added in about a can’s worth of cooked beans, returned the bacon to the pan and warmed everything through. Topped with an over easy egg for a little more substance.

Blueberry and cream cheese rye muffins. I loved the added nuttiness of rye flour. The blueberries and cream cheese made for a very moist muffin, great for consumption but not for prolonged storage. I knew they would develop a fuzz by the end of the week, so I froze a few to take on the bus ride. Defrosted overnight, and an excellent pairing with coffee grabbed at the station.

Not something I made, but super important: Absurd Fruit and Vegetable Gadgets and Their Useful Alternatives. Once a group that ate lunch at work brought one of those stupid round wedge and core devices….for a WATERMELON. I’m pretty sure they didn’t actually use it that day and now it’s just sitting in our kitchen in quiet reflection of its uselessness.

 

Collards with Peanut Butter

Collards with Peanut Butter - Vegetal MattersIf you ever want to push yourself out of your cooking comfort zone, try signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. Yes, they are an up front commitment, but in the ones I’ve participated in, the produce quality and variety has been unparalleled. It can be a confusing concept, mostly because there is no one set way that a farm runs their CSA. The basic parts are that you pay an amount up front, and then receive a quantity of produce weekly based on the size share you choose (a full share often serves a family of four for a week, but again, they vary). Some farms deliver or you pick up a box of produce each week, and you get what you get. Some have a point system, where you get a certain number of points to spend each week and each vegetable or bunch is assigned a value. Plus the CSA model now has branched out far beyond just vegetables. I’ve heard of meat, fish, bread, pie, and even ice cream CSAs.

The up front cost can be significant ( several hundred dollars), but if that isn’t in the cards for you there are other options. I participated in a workshare CSA, where in exchange for my weekly share I worked a full day on the farm. Some also have payment plans or accept SNAP benefits.

No matter what level of choice you have in your CSA, there is a high likelihood that you will end up taking home a vegetable you’ve never cooked with (and how fun!!!!!). Obviously the internet is an endless source of recipes, but I still love having cookbooks around from trusted sources that I can turn to when confronted with a mystery vegetable. Chez Panisse Vegetables, Vegetable Literacy, and How to Cook Everything are all great references.

When I was doing the workshare I brought home some collard greens which I had never eaten, and the only dish I knew of involved a ham hock and a very long cooking time which is not really my weeknight style. I flipped through How to Cook Everything, which had a quick stir fry with collards and tahini, but suggested peanut butter as a substitution. Weird, but SOLD. What resulted was a dead simple dish with a great peanut sauce that coats the greens with a nutty richness. I loved collards at first bite and have made this many times over. I may need a shirt that says “Eat More Collards” to go along with my “Eat More Kale” one….and maybe one for every other vegetable while we’re at it.

Collards with Peanut Butter

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side.

If this sounds weird to you, just think of it as a peanut sauce that you make in the pan. Serve atop brown rice or as a side dish. Especially excellent with rice and soy marinated tofu.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup onion (about a ¼ of a large one)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock or water, plus more if it is dry
  • 1 lb collards, washed, large stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter (or other nut butter, or tahini), but I’ve use chunky in a pinch too
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoons lime juice

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet or pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes until it is slightly colored and fragrant. Add the collards, stock/water, peanut butter, salt, and pepper and stir everything up. Cover and cook until they are wilted, about 5 minutes. Uncover, and cook at a low bubble for 5 minutes more. If the pan looks dry add more stock/water, but you want to have a thicker sauce. Finish with the lime juice, stir, and serve.