You never know where and when inspiration will tap you on the shoulder, and that's one of the reasons it's a good idea to simply pay attention.
Nick Papadopoulos of Bloomfield Farms was a recent guest on my Sunday evening radio show, and the program featured, in part, the farm's current CSA box. We talked about each item, and I was particularly dazzled by the beauty of large collard greens. As we were leaving the station after the show, I complimented my guest on them.
"We steam them and use them like tortillas," he replied.
I was off and running.
Like most of my colleagues, I'm most familiar with braised collards, collards with pot liquor alongside red beans, and rice and collards in soup. But I like the idea of using them as we use not just tortillas but cabbage leaves and grape leaves.
Soon, I was preparing them for just such use.
After blanching the collard leaves, I filled one with chorizo, avocado, sheep ricotta and some cilantro and simply rolled it up, leaving the ends open. It was delicious but messy because filling scooted out the ends. Folding the leaves like you would fold grape leaves is a better way to go than simply rolling.
Over the next few weeks, I'll experiment with other fillings, including leftover risotto, leftover polenta, brown rice, quinoa pilaf and whatever else comes to mind. For now, I can recommend both of these recipes with abandon. They are delicious.
Even my grandson Lucas, who is 11, exclaimed over them.
"Wow," he said, "these are so good. Are there more?"
Getting a kid to eat collards: Priceless!
Blanching Collard Leaves: Collard leaves are broad, which makes them perfect for filling but difficult to blanch in a small saucepan. I use a wok about half full of water. When the water reaches a rolling boil, I add three leaves. They want to float so I set a clean lid on top of them to keep them submerged. I cooked my first batch for 3 minutes, which is good enough to make them pliable but not tender. I poached the next batch for 5 minutes and they were, of course, more tender. After blanching, I use tongs to transfer them to a cold-water bath and then dry them between layers of a tea towel.
Before filling, cut off the stems, including the thickest part attached to the leaf itself, being certain not to cut all the way into the leaf.
Use immediately or tuck into a 1-gallon freezer bag and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. Blanched collards also may be rolled and frozen.
For photographs of blanching, trimming and folding collard leaves, visit "Eat This Now" at pantry.blogs.pressemocrat.com.
With St. Patrick's Day coming up this weekend, I experimented first with corned beef hash and love the results. If you want to do something a bit different this year, give this recipe a try. If you want cabbage, too, serve braised or grilled wedges alongside. You can also fill collard leaves with colcannon.
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