Killer Good Collard Greens

I didn’t grow up eating collard greens. They’re more of a southern thing and I was born and raised in the north.

When we first moved to the south, I regularly saw greens offered as a side dish at restaurants. And, frankly, I didn’t think they looked or smelled very appealing.

But, that was then, and I get it now! I love greens!

Greens are any sort of cabbage in which the green leaves do not form a compact head. They are mostly kale, collards, turnip, spinach, and mustard greens.

And, they’re good for you. They are an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C and calcium. The  antioxidants and phytochemicals in collards may help to reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease. And, the soluble fiber in greens is really good for a healthy digestive system (if you know what I mean).

There are a handful of variations on the theme, but traditionally, all collards are cooked the same way in a liquid at a low simmer with smoked or salted pig meat added for flavor until any bitterness is cooked out of the greens and they are soft.  The liquid, known as “pot likker” is a very important component of the finished dish. It is said that the pot likker “will cure whatever ails you, and if nothing is ailing you, it will give you a good cleaning out.” The best way to devour pot likker is with some fresh baked cornbread.

Collards are served with black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and wealth in the coming year.

I’ve also read that hanging a fresh leaf over your door wards off evil spirits and a fresh leaf placed on your forehead with cure a headache.

And, finally, collard greens are the official vegetable of South Carolina!

Here’s how I make a “mess o’ greens.”

First, I cut several bunches from the garden. You can purchase them in either bunches or bags at your grocery store if you don’t grow your own.

Next, pull all the leaves from the stem and discard any yellowed or brown ones.

Next, cut out the big tough vein in the center of the larger leaves. True southerners fold each leaf in half and tear the vein off, so they say.

And, then chop them into 2 or 3 inch pieces.

And, put them in a bowl filled with cold water to remove loose dirt.

And, then let them drain while you assemble your ingredients.

I had cooked some bacon earlier in the day, so had it already prepared for this dish. And, don’t worry, I give you the ingredient list and quantities at the end of this post.

In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp and remove from pan.( I had done that step at breakfast, so no picture!) Next, cook your diced onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of the bacon drippings until tender and lightly browned. About 5 minutes.

Then, add your greens. You might have to do it in several batches if your pot can’t hold them all. As they wilt, you can continue to add the rest.

On this particular day, I did not have enough bacon to properly season a whole pot of greens, so I added a ham hock, too. Add your crumbled bacon and all all the other ingredients to your pot, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are tender. Serve with your favorite meat dish and some cornbread to sop up the pot likker!

One pot of greens is a little much for Brian and I to eat ourselves, so I freeze some for summer eating!

Killer Good Greens

1 12 oz. (or larger!) pkg. bacon (or a couple of ham hocks, or diced ham)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 cups chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth or water instead)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbs. brown sugar
A splash of apple cider vinegar
1 pound fresh collard greens (or mustard greens, or turnip greens, or spinach or cabbage, even!)

1.In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan.

2. Add onion, cook until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add collard greens and fry until they start to wilt.

3. Pour in chicken broth and your remaining ingredients. Stir to mix well. Turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are tender.

Note: for a healthier version, you can substitute turkey bacon or a turkey leg, if you desire. And, you can brown your onion and garlic in olive oil.



A little food Inspiration

I’ve gotten a little food inspiration recently on Pinterest and have decided to share a few with you.

One thing that I make now – several times a week – is No Knead Bread. Most of you know that I although I love to cook, I’m not that great of a baker. Doughs that I have to knead or roll out into pie crusts are not my cup of tea. And, my lack of having the knack for it shows in my final results, ergo, I’ve quit trying. So, when I saw a Pin of a pretty loaf of bread with a caption underneath that read, “No Knead Bread” I figured it was worth taking a look.  The instructions seemed easy enough – as a matter of fact – the author demonstrated with photos of her four-year old making a loaf, just how incredibly easy it is. How hard could this be, I wondered?

After a trip to the grocery store to buy yeast (I had a package in my cupboard that was at least 50 gazillion years old, so thought better of using it) I tried my hand at it. My first loaf, although very tasty, didn’t rise as much as the one in the photo I had seen, and I guessed it was because I used rapid-rise yeast and not instant as the recipe had called for. No store in my little town had the instant in stock, and since I don’t know that much about baking with yeasts, I guessed there wasn’t such a thing, anyway. Turns out, there is a product called instant yeast, and the trick for using rapid-rise instead is to use more in your recipe. I doubled the amount in the next loaf, and voila, it turned out perfect!

Another recipe I tried was for crack-tastic crackers.  Saltine crackers, canola oil, red pepper flakes and a packet of dry ranch dressing. Simple! I use Keebler Town House crackers since I don’t normally keep saltines in the house. These are yum to eat as snack, but I also envision making them to use for canapes for guests, too.

Another wonderfully good find is the chicken and dumplings recipe, I found recently. I already have several recipes for this dish in  my recipe book. One calls for using one of those tubular cans of biscuits for the dumplings and another calls for making a quick dough out of Bisquick and dropping by spoonfuls on top near the end of the cooking process. My recipes are okay, but not great. My new recipe for chicken and dumplings  is FANTASTIC!  This recipe calls for making dumpling noodles, requiring rolling out dough and cutting into strips. Easy! I thought I took a picture of this completed dish, but cannot find one. Trust me when I tell you mine looked just like the picture here.

And, this broccoli dish brags that it is the best broccoli ever. I agree! I can’t find my photo of this dish, so I borrowed this one from the author.

I’ve also been inspired to made pumpkin cupcakes, Thai ribs, roasted green beans, and stuffed pasta shells.  I’ve “pinned” lots of other recipes to try, too – for soups, salads, appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts.

It’s so much fun to try new dishes!


The Wheeling Gourmet

Nic Steenhout, aka, The Wheeling Gourmet

I’ve recently discovered a new website that was created by a great chef and a cool guy, my friend, Nicolas Steenhout. The site, The Wheeling Gourmet, is, of course, a cooking site. Since I love to cook, I find perusing cooking sites a fun pastime. Some of the sites I stumble upon are okay and some, not so much. But, this site is different, somehow. Every time I visit Nic’s site, I get this feeling that there is something more, a true passion for cooking and sharing, and I  absolutely love that!  

Honestly, I do not know a lot about Nic. I know he is a Canadian living in New Zealand by way of Chicago and Savannah. I know he was once a professional chef and he co-authored a cookbook on wild meat and game.  I know he is an advocate for people with disabilities. His other site, Accessibility NZ, deals with web accessibility issues. I know he plays wheelchair rugby.

The first recipe I made was the Chicken Chorizo Clay Pot. Oh, I didn’t have a clay pot, so I used a Dutch oven.  I didn’t have mirin sauce (mirin is a sweet Japanese wine) so I used sherry. I didn’t even have any chorizo (Spanish sausage) and had to use kielbasa. (If I lived even remotely close to a decent grocery store, I would have made a quick trip to purchase those ingredients. Using the right ingredients is important!) But, even with all those changes, I loved this recipe! The flavors were incredible. I have made this again, since that first time, with the correct ingredients (well, except for the clay pot) with fantastic results.

The second recipe I tried was the Pork Medallions with Orange and Ginger Reduction. Oh, I fudged this  one up, too!   I thought I had defrosted a small pork tenderloin to use, but instead had a small package of ribs. Sheesh! The orange and ginger reduction and balsamic vinegar reduction were fabulous, though, and it still turned out to be a great dinner!

Several other recipes that are high on my list to try soon are the Braised Beef Shin with Orange and Black Olive – Osso Bucco Style, the Mousse au Chocolat, Chicken Brochettes  Marinated in Olive Oil and Lemon Juice, and Spaghetti Carbonara. Nic provides U.S. Standard measurements alongside the metric equivalents to make it easy for us Americans, too!  And, he always remembers to list the U.S.  term for ingredients like red capcium (red pepper) and kumara (a Maori word for sweet potato).

Setting up for a food photograph.

What else is cool about Nic is that he has a passion for photography and takes all of his own food photos! Typically food photographers add a lot of crap that make dishes inedible just to make a picture look appealing, but Nic cooks his food, plates it up, snaps his photos and then he eats it! Nic’s food photos are fantastic! Both photos in this article (yes, even the self photo above) were taken by Nic.

The site, The Wheeling Gourmet, is a work in progress. So, please visit it often! And, don’t be afraid to ask Nic questions, he loves to answer! And, if you are inclined to take a photo of your cooking masterpiece, he would like to see it!

Oh, and a clay pot, like the one featured on his site, is now on my wish list, in case you were wondering!

Happy eating!