Sunday, November 11, 2012

Collards: The green that keeps on giving

(Photo credit: Mother Earth News)

 Last year, inspired by the Ros Trial garden, I planted a few collard green plants. With their giant, sturdy dark green leaves they added some nice drama to the vegetable garden. Plus, the kids liked to use them as roof tiles on their forts. We ate our way through a portion of the plants' produce, but I thought I'd skip planting them this year. I apparently didn't pull out one of the plants during my spring garden clean up because, miraculously, it seems that these collard greens are acting as perennials. Or perhaps it was our mild winter last year that gave the plant a second chance.

Either way, we've been eating collard greens in a lot of dinners recently and a favorite use for them is this butternut squash chowder (adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution from America's Test Kitchen).

Butternut Squash Chowder
Serves 6-8 (but everyone wants seconds, so make extra if you are feeding more than 6)
Cooking time 4-6 hours on low (in the slow cooker)
Vegetarian adaptation: Leave out the bacon and replace the chicken broth with 3 more cups vegetable broth.

large slow cooker
10-12 inch skillet
tin foil
advanced planning - you want to have all the ingredients in the slow cooker around noon or 1 pm for a 6 pm dinner (unless you have a fancy timer on your slow cooker to switch it to warm).

1/4 lb. bacon, minced
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups vegetable broth (I like Repunzel brand vegetable bouillon)
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice.
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch collard green leaves, stemmed and sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons, then sliced again across the ribbons to make them bite sized
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon brown sugar
grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Salt and pepper

1. In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp.  Add the onion and garlic, basil, nutmeg and pepper flakes and cook on medium-high until softened.  Add the flour and stir for 1 minute.  Add 2 cups of chicken broth and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Transfer to slow cooker.

2. Add to the slow cooker: the remaining 5 cups of combined chicken and vegetable broth, half the squash, and bay leaves.  Get a large piece of tin foil and lay it out on the counter: place the other half of the squash on the top half of the foil, add oil and season with salt and pepper.  Fold the bottom of the foil up and seal the top end, then fold in the sides to make a well sealed packet that will rest on the top of soup, inside the slow cooker.  Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

3. Remove foil packet and place on a plate.  Remove bay leaves and stir in the collard greens.  Cook for another 20 minutes.

4. Open the foil packet, watching out for steam.  Empty the squash and juices into the pot.  Add cream, brown sugar and cook for another 5 minutes until heated.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with cheese.