At a recent Q&A before a book signing, an audience member asked me, “Is it true that collards are the new kale?”
Collards, new? The idea that anything is the latest “it” food has always struck me as a little silly, given that collards, kale and most other vegetables have been around longer than food fashions themselves. But I understood her point; as cooks who have become enamored of kale finally look up and realize that plenty of other greens are worth their attention, too, what do they see? Swiss chard. Mustard greens. Collards.
The last have long been one of my favorites; then again, I was born in Georgia, so it’s to be expected. But I long ago stopped thinking I needed to cook them with lots of liquid and a smoky ham hock and for extended periods, the Southern way. These days, I’m more likely to give them a quick turn in a saute pan, with loads of aromatic vegetables and spices, just until they wilt, retaining some of their heft and color.
The authors of “Leon: Fast Vegetarian,” Jane Baxter and Henry Dimbleby, would appear to feel the same way, which is why I gravitated toward their recipe for Indian-spiced collard greens. They call for stirring in a little unsweetened coconut, plus such spices as mustard seeds, cumin and turmeric.
I couldn’t leave well enough alone, doubling the spices and bulking it all up with chickpeas, for a result that tasted simultaneously deep and bright.
Sure, it tasted new. But the same treatment would also work beautifully with kale.