Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What to do with all those collards?

We love vegetables in our household.  So much that we not only have our own mildly successful small garden but we also participate in a CSA.  Check out Pinckney's Produce if you are in South Carolina.  They are great.  We love vegetables and we get a medium share, which was plenty for us to share with our dear friend Ali (the blog inspirer).  But Ali moved to the big city, so we have continued to get the same size share and put up (freeze and this year, can) vegetables that we know we will not get around to eating before they go bad.

So being in South Carolina, early spring and fall CSA shares have collards, you just can't get away from it.  And collards are great, but what do you do with them?  Sure, everyone is calling them the new Kale, but really...

Well, for starters, you can make, well, collards: whether you saute them with fat back and vinegar or stew them with ham hocks or turkey necks, or if you get fancy and make a shredded collard green salad with a sweet dressing and mandarin oranges, it doesn't matter.  But, honestly, there's aren't a million ways to make them.  It's kind of like lettuce, you're gonna probably eat a salad if you have them.

So, we don't particularly like them sauteed and stewed collards are great, but don't really keep well frozen or refrigerated.  So what do you do with all these collards you get?

Here's the answer:  You make white bean, tomato and collard soup.  It's so bleepin' easy and so tasty and so customizable, it's ridiculous.

I got this recipe from converting my mother's in laws recipe for "beans and greens" which mainly used canned everything.  This makes the beans and greens a little fresher and a soup, a great soup that freezes amazingly well.

Here's what you do:

Before anything else, soak your dried white beans over night.

Fry  chopped lardon/fat back/bacon/or brown a hamhock in some oil in a big dutch oven.  If you want to make this vegetarian, feel free, but make sure you have REALLY GOOD vegetable stock, and maybe add some good seasoning, whether generous salt and pepper or your favorite spices.

After the oil starts to  render out of the fat, or the hock starts to brown a little, add some garlic, you can smash it and throw it in or mince.  I'm usually lazy and just smash it.  Now is when you add white beans.  I usually soak dried white beans over night, drain, rinse and add them to the pot.  Then I add collard greens, you can use fresh that have been washed and dried or frozen.

Now you can add water if you are using a ham hock or, for more depth of flavor, chicken or vegetable stock.  Make sure you have enough to cover the beans and collards and make a nice soup consistency. Keep in mind some of the beans will soak up some of the liquid and it will evaporate, too.

Then throw in a can of tomatoes or your own crushed tomatoes.  You can do diced, crushed, whatever you want.  After you do that, add a nice helping of salt, pepper and any other seasoning.  I usually throw in some crushed red pepper or even some hot sauce.

Next, you put the lid on it and let it simmer for a few hours.  Y'all, I'm not kidding, serve this with some saltines and it's all you need.  Feelin' fancy?  Serve with homemade skillet cornbread!  It's my go-to for getting rid of collards.  Even people who don't really like collard greens will like this soup!  Sometimes when it's hot outside and I don't want soup, I'll just make this anyway and put it in the freezer for quick lunch/dinner sometime in the next few days, weeks or even months.

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