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 community supported agriculture 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.
Collard Leaves Stuffed with Corned Beef Hash
Makes 6 to 8 servings
About 1? pounds new potatoes, preferably dry-farmed, diced
- Kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into small dice
4 to 5 cups cooked corned beef, cut into ?-inch cubes
- Black pepper in a mill
- Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley.
16 large collard greens, without tears, blanched and refreshed (see Sidebar)
- Mustard Cream (see Note below)
Put the diced potatoes into a medium saucepan, cover with water by an inch or so and season generously with salt. Set over high heat, and when the water reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they are just tender, about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on their age and size of dice. Remove from the stove and drain, reserving about a half cup of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a heavy skillet set over medium-low heat, add the onions and saute until they are soft and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Season with salt.
Add the potatoes, saute for 2 or 3 minutes and add the corned beef. Cook gently, turning now and then, until the meat is heated through. Add the reserved cooking liquid, stir and remove from the heat. Taste, correct for salt, season with black pepper and a few shakes of Tabasco sauce, then stir in the Italian parsley. Let the mixture cool until it is ready to handle.
Set a trimmed leaf on a clean work surface, underside up, top of the leaf pointing away from you. Set about ? to ? cup of the filling in the center of the leaf and fold the bottom (closest to you) up and over the filling. Fold the sides in and then roll away from you to form a tight little package. Set the filled leaf in a basket steamer and continue until all have been filled.