Stuffed Collards With Tomato Sauce
Collard greens are nutritional powerhouses, and are the oldest known greens in the cabbage family. The Ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated collard greens. It is believed they were brought to France and Britain in around 400 B.C. by the Romans or the Celts. In 2011, they were designated as the Official Vegetable of South Carolina.
- Slice collard greens at the base where the leaves on both side meet the main stem. They should look like a large “outspread hand” in size. Stack them carefully and have ready next to your stove on a plate.
- Put a large bowl with water and ice cubes next to your stove.
- Bring water in a large cooking pot to a boil, then medium simmer.
- Using metal kitchen tongs, carefully submerge one or two cut leaves into boiling water, pressing down gently. Boil for about 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the thickness of the leaves, they should start to turn a bright color).
- Carefully pull out leaves, and submerge into the ice water. Wait a minute or two, and carefully place the leaves on paper towels on your plate (paper towel, cooked leaf, paper towel, etc.).
- Cook and cool the remaining leaves using the same process. Turn off the heat of your stove and reserve ½ to ⅔ cup of collard broth. Note: if need be, you could store the leaves between paper towels in a large plastic sealable bag for making the rest of this dish at a later time.
- Pre-heat stove to 375 degrees F.
- Put diced onion into a large non-stick skillet. Add black beans, corn, cumin, and ⅓ cup reserved broth. Bring to a slow simmer (covered) stirring once in awhile until the onions start to get translucent. Turn off heat.
- Add cooked rice, chili-garlic sauce, and stir until mixed. Let the mixture cool.
- In a large bowl, add the cooked vegetables/rice.
- Mix together ground flaxseed with 6 tablespoons of water. Let sit for a couple of minutes. Add to vegetables and rice, stir until mixed. Add a bit more reserved broth if the rice doesn’t start to get a bit sticky.
- Prepare a large square or rectangular casserole dish with either parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil (I prefer the latter as you can mold it, it stays “down” better than parchment paper, can handle higher temperature, and can be re-used).
- Place a single cut cooked collard leaf on a large cutting board, stem towards you. Scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons of the stuffing mix (depending upon the size of your leaf) and place on the lower bottom of the leaf horizontally. You should leave and inch or two on either side (see PHOTO).
- It’s like rolling a burrito. Carefully fold over both left and right sides partially over the stuffing, then roll the bottom of the leaf up and over, forward, tucking it in, until you reach the end. Place the “collard burrito” seam down in your casserole dish.
- Continue until your dish is full.
- Mix dried oregano (or any other desired spices) with 1 cup of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes.
- Ladle over the “burritos,” cover, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes.
- Always prep a few extra leaves in case one “breaks” during cooking or rolling (that’s why I recommended 10 leaves). You can always use extra chopped up in soups, stews, and sauces.
- You can also finely chop the “trimmings” from the leaves and add to the stuffing as it is being cooked, maybe adding a little more water or broth.
- Use left over greens bits from trimmings in soups, stews, and/or stir-fries.
- Large Swiss chard leaves will work as well as collard green leaves and do not need to be pre-cooked. The chard will “shrink” around the filling.
- Other cooked grains such as millet, quinoa, and barley will also work. Use the same amount as the rice in the recipe above.
- A basic plant-based white or mushroom sauce could be used instead of a “red tomato” sauce.
- Experiment with adding other chopped vegetables to the stuffing: celery, mushrooms, shredded carrots. You can even add chopped leftover collard greens from trimming! You may have to adjust the amount of broth in the stuffing mix depending upon the water content of the vegetable(s) used.
- Fresh chopped herbs of choice could also be used instead of dried herbs.