Summer is here! Summer is our sweet reward for those long cold winter days we endure knowing the the fields will soon be planted in the Spring to bring a Summer filled with fresh produce to delight us. When we arrived in Amagansett this summer the first thing I did was hop in my car and go to my favorite farm stand, Balsam Farms. I hope you enjoy this little tour with me and a little Foggy Mountain Breakdown tune.
|Free slideshow design generated with Smilebox|
The day I visited Balsam Farms they had the most beautiful looking collard greens. Collard greens are a staple on the Southern table. Some people may turn their nose up at the very thought of eating collard greens, but believe it or not they have amazing health benefits. Recent studies have demonstrated new respect for collard greens as a nutrition powerhouse — they’re loaded with disease-fighting beta-carotene and offer respectable amounts of vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. All these attributes make cooking collard greens a wise choice for your diet.
First, collard greens contribute an important non-dairy source of calcium that’s absorbed almost as well as the calcium found in dairy products. That’s good news for those facing the threat of osteoporosis, as calcium is one of many factors crucial to bone health.
Second, collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, mostly in the form of beta-carotene, which has been shown to help protect against cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and other diseases of aging through its antioxidant properties. Vitamin A also helps keep the immune system strong. Other carotenoids found in greens may be just as potent cancer conquerors as well, but research is continuing. They are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C.
Now, most southern recipes call for cooking collard greens in copious amounts of pork fat which would undo all the good things collard greens can do for your health so I had to come up with a way to make them that was tasty without all the fat. I know – smoked salt!!
In its pure state, salt is a simple chemical compound, sodium chloride. But things really get “fired up” when salt is smoked. The best ones are slowly smoked over a natural fire, often made of used oak barrels recycled from making wine. The smoke permeates the salt crystals, infusing them with a rich, distinct smoked taste, and transforms their color from a light toasty brown to a deep amber. Williams-Sonoma has a very good Oak Smoked Chardonnay Sea Salt which will do just fine for my collard greens recipe.
Collard greens are easy to make, but I think they are best when the leaves are sliced very thinly in chiffonade. Chiffonade is a classic French technique that means thinly slicing an herb, such as basil, or a leafy vegetable, into strands or ribbons. To make chiffonade, stack the leaves one on top of the other, and roll them tight into a cylinder. Using a chef’s knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into thin strips. This will give the collard greens a light and uniform consistency.
If you want to eat collard greens in the true Southern style, you can add a few dashes of hot pepper vinegar just before serving. Hot pepper vinegar is a little hard to find. Trappy’s is a very popular brand and is quite tasty. If you are really ambitious you can make your own, which is really not hard at all.
You simply won’t believe your mouth when you taste these greens. They smell like bacon, and taste a lot like bacon, but there is no bacon! Just the magic of the smoked salt. So pull up a chair and get ready to dig into some mouth watering smokey collard greens.
Smokey Collard Greens
2 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 lbs. collard greens, clean with center tough stems removed and discarded and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
4 cups water
1 tbsp smoked salt
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the greens, water, smoked salt and apple cider vinegar. Season the mixture with pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the greens are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with smoked salt and pepper. Serve with hot pepper vinegar on the side.
Hot Pepper Vinegar
6 – 8 hot fresh chilies (such as jalapeño or cayenne)
4 cups apple cider vinegar
Wearing rubber gloves, wash the chiles under cold running water. Using a paring knife, make 2 to 3 small slits in each. Pack the peppers tightly into a sterilized jar. Heat the vinegar in a saucepan over high heat until simmering. Pour the hot vinegar over the peppers. Secure tightly with the lid and refrigerate for 3 weeks before opening. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.