My Favorite Winter Greens

I don't remember ever eating collards before I tried growing my own. Now I love them and they are a staple in my winter garden. The leafy plants grow continuously in cool weather and provide delicious fresh greens even in our coldest months. Winter is fairly mild here in Tennessee, but even after being buried in snow and subject to freezing for several days, the collard plants spring back to life and begin to grow again. I just ignore them and they grow! No bugs and very few weeds in the winter gardening, so that makes it easy too.

Southern style collard greens are traditionally cooked with ham hocks or bacon and cooked until what I consider to be "mush!" I prefer to saute chopped leaves in olive oil with onions, garlic, herbs, and perhaps some tamari soy sauce. I've also discovered that collard leaves are much easier to stuff than cabbage leaves, so I've created this entree….


Stuffed Collard Leaves 

Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Gluten Free
Makes:4-6 servings
NOTE: Ingredients in red type are detailed on the "Ingredients" page of this blog
The four collard plants in my garden are flourishing, so I've been trying new recipes. I've loosely based this creation on Polish stuffed cabbage rolls, called golabki. I don't eat much red meat, and I reduced the amount for this recipe vs. the traditional rolls and added chopped squash. You could easily make a vegetarian version by substituting about 1-1/2 cups of chopped vegetables (carrots, broccoli, celery) for the ground beef and skip the egg and top with chopped nuts. I used my ground dried red jalapenos for just the right touch of spice, and you can adjust the heat level to your preference. This preparation is more time-consuming than I usually spend, but it's a one-dish meal (with good leftovers for the two of us) which helps justify the labor!

12 fresh collard leaves
1 T olive oil
3 fresh scallions, chopped
1 T  fresh parsley, chopped
1 t minced garlic
1 small squash (yellow or zucchini), chopped or other fresh firm vegetables
1 T tomato paste
1-1/2 c tomato marinara sauce
1-1/2 c cooked brown long grain rice
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/2 t hot jalapeno powder
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c feta cheese crumbles

Blanche the collard leaves very briefly to soften, by boiling them in water for 1 minute then plunging into ice water for 2 minutes; drain. Line the bottom of a greased 3-quart casserole with two or three leaves, cut in pieces if necessary. Spoon about 1/4 c of the tomato sauce over these leave.

In a skillet, saute the scallions, parsley, garlic and squash in oil briefly. Add tomato paste, 1/4 c of the tomato sauce and cooked rice, mix together. Spread mixture to the edges and brown the ground beef in the center, breaking it into small pieces. Mix it into the rice mixture, add the hot pepper powder. Remove from heat when the beef is mostly cooked. Let it cool slightly, the mix in the beaten egg.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To stuff, lay one leaf flat and plop about 1/2 c of the filling in the center. Fold up the stem end, then the sides, then the top, to create a little bundle. Put it into the casserole, smooth side up. Repeat with the rest of the leaves. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, remove the casserole, uncover and sprinkle with feta cheese, Return it to the oven, uncovered, for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve. The leaves laid in the bottom of the casserole make delicious cooked greens too.