31 July 2011

Quick Collard Greens without PORK

Right now I'm living in the South, enjoying Southern delicacies like biscuits, grits, iced tea, and crowder peas. Mm mmm gobble gobble. But as a vegetarian I can see No Trespassing signs everywhere I look. BBQ place? Yeah, I'll take the hush puppies and fried okra.

And slow-cooked collards? I don't even have to ask what those collards were slow-cooked with. It's PORK. Pork pork pork pork pork. Southern food is filled with pigs, even though I haven't seen any swine anywhere. I do not know where these doomed Wilburs are kept while awaiting their demise.

And do you know why collards are cooked with salted pork? It's because by the time those collards are done cookin', there's barely any life left in 'em. Slow-cooked collards are silky but on the point of a taste collapse.

I have a whole lot of vegetarian cookbooks and I get the distinct impression from them that collards are a tough nut for vegetarian cooks to crack. One cookbook suggests I cook the leaves with dulse and pickled plums. I did that, and the result tasted like weird sea collards. Another suggested just cooking the stems, chopped into confetti. Finally, I read in a book that collard greens belong to the mustard greens family, so first you oughtta blanch them in salted water without the lid on to leech out the sulferous bitterness. Then drain them and sauté them with other stuff until tender.

That sounded like a plan to me. I tried it and I loved my new, chewy collards with the bright, acidic flavor. They weren't silky like slow-cooked collards but alive and bursting with happy nutritious feelings. I composed a song on the spot:

Collards, collards,
I am eating you.
Collards, collards,
You're so good.
Yum yum yum,
I want some more.

I have submitted it for a Pulitzer. But the Pulitzer committee is notoriously bizarre in its tastes, so I am also submitting it for a Grawemeyer Award through the University of Louisville. They are Southern. They will understand.

Quick Collard Greens

1 ridiculously large bunch collards
juice of 3 1/2 lemons (or a mix of lemons and oranges if you want it a little sweet)
olive oil

  1. Strip the leaves off the stems and tear into pieces. Wash them thoroughly.
  2. Blanch in salted, boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes. You might have to do this batches.
  3. Drain. (At this point you can store for later use).
  4. Heat up some olive oil on slow heat. Add collards to cover the surface. Stir and cook until tender and chewy. You might have to do this in batches too.
  5. Remove collard greens and place in a bowl. Pour on lemon juice and combine thoroughly. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold. Keeps for days in the refrigerator. Goes well with music.

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