I will always have a soft spot in my heart, and belly, for the way my grandma cooks her greens. True to her southern roots her greens are cooked for hours with a blend of spices, vinegar, and smoked meats. The result is a hearty and satisfying collard stew.
I wanted to create a dish that holds true to the essence of my first memories of collard greens, while adding a level of sophistication and urban zest. The addition of Indian spices in these greens was initially a fluke. Milling through my cabinet I came upon a jar of garam masala that I used to make a curry dish. Aha! The blend of spices was exactly what was missing.
I recommend buying spices in bulk and saving them separately in airtight containers until you are ready to grind. This way, the spices retain their bold flavors and you can make small batches, adjusting the combinations, until you find your signature blend.
For this recipe, I added extra cloves to give the greens more of sweet and smoky taste. The spice from the masala, the sweetness of the braising liquid, and caramelized onions provides a great compliment to the brightness of the collard greens. The result is an earthen yet sophisticated and extremely satisfying plate of greens.
1 bunch collard greens
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp clarified butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp garam masala
2 sticks cinnamon
2 dried chili peppers
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp cloves
2 tsp coriander seeds
10 cardamom pods, seeded
Photo: Anna Barsan
1. In a small dry frying pan over medium heat, toast spices until fragrant-about 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Remove the spices from heat and pour into a spice grinder. Grind until you have a smooth powdery mix and set aside. You can save the remaining mix in airtight container for later use.
3. Cut away the stems from each collard leaf keeping the leaf intact as you cut up the entire leaf. Discard the stems; wash and dry the leaves.
4. Roll several of the leaves tightly crosswise into a cigar shape. Cut the collard "cigar" crosswise into 1/4 inch (about the width of your pinky finger) slices. Use your fingers to unfurl the slices, which will be tightly curled together. Repeat until all the leaves are cut into ribbons.
5. Dice garlic and slice the red onion. To slice the onions cut the bulb in half first and then slice into half-moon shapes
Add greens, vinegar, water, garlic, 1 tsp masala, and brown sugar to a large frying pan over medium heat.Â Braise until greens are tender-about 25-30 minutes.
6. While greens are cooking, add clarified butter and sliced red onions to a medium frying pan over medium low heat.
7. As onions begin to brown add 1/2 tsp masala (or more for added kick) and salt and pepper to taste. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they begin to develop a rich brown color-about 25 minutes.
8. Season the greens and onions with masala, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer greens to a serving plate and top with caramelized onions. Enjoy!