"Is it true that collards are the new kale?" I was recently asked.
Collards, new? The idea that anything is the latest "it" food has always struck me as a little silly, given that collards, kale and most other vegetables have been around longer than food fashions themselves. But I understood the question; as cooks who have become enamored of kale finally look up and realize that plenty of other greens are worth their attention, too, what do they see? Swiss chard. Mustard greens. Collards.
The last have long been one of my favorites; then again, I was born in Georgia, so it's to be expected. But I long ago stopped thinking I needed to cook them with lots of liquid and a smoky ham hock and for extended periods, the Southern way. These days, I'm more likely to give them a quick turn in a saute pan, with loads of aromatic vegetables and spices, just until they wilt, retaining some of their heft and color.
The authors of "Leon: Fast Vegetarian," Jane Baxter and Henry Dimbleby, would appear to feel the same way, which is why I gravitated toward their recipe for Indian-spiced collard greens. They call for stirring in a little unsweetened coconut, plus such spices as mustard seeds, cumin and turmeric.
I couldn't leave well enough alone, doubling the spices and bulking it all up with chickpeas, for a result that tasted simultaneously deep and bright.
Sure, it tasted new. But the same treatment would also work beautifully with kale.
Stir-Fried Spiced Collards and Chickpeas
This treatment keeps collards bright and vibrant while adding spice and texture. Serve over rice or another grain. The cooked dish can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Adapted from a recipe in "Leon: Fast Vegetarian," by Jane Baxter and Henry Dimbleby (Conran Octopus, 2014).
1 1/2 pounds collard greens
3 tablespoons unsweetened dried coconut
3 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
14 ounces canned, no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed (may substitute cooked-from-scratch chickpeas, drained)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Cut the collard leaves from the stems; discard the stems or save them for another use. Stack, roll and thinly slice the collard greens, then transfer them to a salad spinner; rinse and spin dry.
Combine the coconut and the boiling water in a small bowl; sprinkle in the turmeric and ancho chili powder and stir well.
Pour the oil into a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion; cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the cumin and mustard seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, ginger, garlic and chickpeas; cook until the spices become fragrant, the ginger and garlic are tender and the chickpeas have warmed through, 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the shredded greens, salt and pepper; increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring vigorously, until the greens wilt but don't lose their color, about 5 minutes. (If they stick to the pan, add a little water.)
Stir in the coconut mixture and lime juice. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with rice or another grain of your choice.
Per serving: 220 calories, 10 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar