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Beyond Spinach—Introducing Collard Greens

By Sandy Beck

Fresh, leafy greens often translate to spinach. Spinach salad, steamed spinach, spinach and feta omelet, spinach and mushroom quiche, or creamed spinach. We know what to do with spinach.

But there is a big green world beyond spinach. Collard greens have evolved from that green, salty, over-boiled mush that public school cafeterias serve weekly and are gaining wider popularity. Collards are an excellent source of vitamins A (as beta carotene), C, K and folate, as well as manganese and calcium. And are good for detox smoothies; they help support the heart, lungs and immune system while lowering cholesterol and protecting against cancer with powerful antioxidants.

Wash collard greens carefully because their crinkled leaves can hide a lot of sand. Place leaves in a colander. Place the colander in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water and soak. Then lift the colander to strain the sandy water, empty the bowl, and repeat several times until there is no sand left in the bowl. Unless they're very young and tender, cut out the central rib from each leaf. Wrap fresh collard greens in paper towels and place in a plastic bag with as much air removed from the bag as possible, and they can be stored in the refrigerator for about three to five days.

Your body needs a little fat to absorb some of the vitamins found in collards, and in most other greens, so include a bit of healthy olive oil in your collard green dish.

Collards can be substituted for your friend spinach in eggs Florentine, vegetable lasagna, quiches, frittatas, stir-fries and soups. Serve with brown rice and black-eyed peas for a healthy version of southern soul food. Because collard greens are tougher than spinach, I pre-cook them for five minutes or less in the microwave or a steamer before adding to a recipe. Don't add water; the moisture that clings to the freshly rinsed leaves is enough. Slicing the leaves into strips helps collard greens to cook more quickly. Raw greens cook down to a fourth of their volume—so plan accordingly.

Enjoy these simple, healthful recipes, and please share them with the school cafeteria ladies.

Simple, Healthful Steamed Collard Greens

Ingredients
1 pound washed collard greens, sliced into one-half to one-inch strips.
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 or more garlic cloves, pressed
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Steam collard greens for no more than five minutes.
2. While they are cooking, mix remaining ingredients in a bowl.

3. Add cooked, hot greens to bowl and toss.

Baked Collard Green Frittata

Ingredients

1 pound fresh, collard greens, cut into 1-inch strips
1 pound chopped, fresh tomatoes

Salted water

6 eggs or 3 eggs + ¾ cup egg whites

3 Tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

4 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano + more for the top

4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, pressed



Directions

1. Steam collard greens for five minutes or less and drain well.
2. Sauté chopped tomatoes and garlic briefly in olive oil.
3. Add greens and cook for about 2 minutes to heat through and mix.
4. Beat eggs in a bowl.
5. Add milk, salt, pepper and cheese and beat just enough to evenly blend.
6. Coat a shallow baking pan with olive oil. Pour in vegetable mixture, pour eggs over top. Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with more cheese, return to oven and bake 5-8 minutes more or until frittata is puffed and lightly browned.

Serve with crusty bread and olive oil for dipping.

Comments

Tear washed, dried leaves into potato chip size pieces, removing stems,
toss lightly with EVOO and a little salt or seasoning of your choice, massaging to be sure the pieces are covered,
spread on baking sheet and bake in 400 degree preheated oven +/-20 minutes (depending on thickness of leaves) until crisp with some light browning.

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