East Meets West with the Collard Greens
The dish I am going to share with you today is a special one as it signifies a special time in my life. Collard greens! They are an all American delicacy mainly eaten in the South. The first few times I went grocery shopping after moving to the United Stated I had always been fascinated by the huge green leaves that were always on display in the fresh produce aisles. I always stood there and wondered what on earth can be done with the lettuce-sized leaves. In my mind the only thing that resembled that pile of leaves were the Swiss Chards in the markets back home. The sight of a pile of green leaves was just so tempting to me. Temptation would quickly turn into frustration as I had no clue how to incorporate the monster leaves into my cooking. But this was also a time of adaptation for me as I had just moved from the Middle East. I was going through a culture shock. As I gazed at the leaves, I wanted to embrace them into my kitchen, I wanted to learn about them. They were beautiful, so familiar but at the same time seemed very foreign, just like my new life here in the U.S. It didn’t take me too long to adapt however. I eventually embraced the collard greens; I embraced Thanksgiving, 4th of July and all the beautiful things this country had to offer! Today, I am so fortunate to call this place my home.
I was watching the Food Network a few years back and Paula Dean came on. I really enjoy watching Paula Dean cook because she cooks with so much love, which is the most important ingredient in my opinion. I just love the fact that she uses a pound of butter in every recipe! Who can deny that butter makes everything taste better? My friends made fun of me this past Thanksgiving for using 8 sticks of butter in the dishes I prepared! Back home they would probably disagree with me as olive oil was used with everything and is more abundant than water at times!
So I watched Paula Dean make the collards and was fascinated by the simplicity of this dish. When I see a green leaf, I automatically think ‘stuff,’ then ‘roll!’ But chopping the leaves!? Never… Of course when I asked my Teta (Grandma) what to do with the collards, the first thing she inquired about was whether they were similar to Swiss Chards or not, and after I had said “somewhat,” her response was “Why don’t you try stuffing them?” Of course! So I did. I really enjoy making this dish. You can stuff it with meat and rice, with veggies and rice or even cracked wheat and veggies. It is just really versatile and very healthy as collards are very high in vitamins A, C and K. Enjoy!
2 bunches of collards (preferably small leaves)
1.5 cups coarse cracked wheat (Burghul)
1 red onion
1 bunch parsley
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbs dried mint
1 tbs sumac
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbs olive oil
Cut the stems off the collards and boil in water (with salt) for 3 minutes. Then drain the leaves and allow to cool off. In a small pan, saute the Burghul with a little olive oil for two minutes then add 3 cups of water and a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to cook on low heat. When the water dries, set them aside and allow them to cool down. Chop the Parsley, onion and tomatoes very finely. Take the seeds out from the pomegranate as half of them will be used in the mixture and the other half for garnishing. This is done by slitting the pomegranate and then opening it with your hands as you do not want the seeds to crush. Hit it with a spoon until all the seeds fall out. The video I made demonstrates this process. It also shows how to roll the collard leaf. This process is almost identical to stuffing a cabbage leaf or a grape leaf.
Squeeze the lemons and add the juice along with all the ingredients listed above to the Burghul and mix well. You are now ready to stuff and roll! Place all the rolled leaves in a small pot. Add 3 cups of water with lemon juice from one lemon and half a tea spoon of salt. Let simmer on low heat for an hour. Keep checking to make sure the water doesn't dry or that you don't overcook them. When the leaf is cooked, then it is ready to be served. Garnish with half the seeds from the pomegranate you used. Always remember, the main ingredient in making any dish is love.....