Heavenly collard greens are loved on at least three continents

Ask the Chef

January 12, 2003|By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan | By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan,Knight Ridder / Tribune

I would like a recipe for collard greens, the authentic way Southern ladies would prepare it.

Y'all should know that a true Southern lady would only prepare herself for dinner, then go out to eat.

But true Southerners swear there is nothing better than a pot of black-eyed peas and a steamin' bowl of collard greens. Both are flavored with ham hocks or another piece of pork, and if you serve them with warm corn bread, you've got a little bit of heaven on your table.

Believe it or not, this is the second request for a collard greens recipe that I've received this week. My guess is that the word is out that these greens not only taste good, but also are really good for you.

Having grown up eating collard greens in the South, where they are definitely a regional specialty, and assuming they were just an American food, I was surprised to find them on a trip to Portugal. In a beautiful little restaurant in Oporto, I was knocked out by a fabulous bowl of collard greens topped with a sizzling piece of sauteed fish. It turns out they are a Portuguese specialty, too, and are also one of the national dishes of Ethiopia, where they may have originated.

Let's get down to the basics of preparing collards for cooking. The one thing you should make sure you do is remove the grit from the leaves. Sometimes this isn't easy to do under the tap, so here's a little trick.

Trim the stems and cut out and discard the heavy ribs. Place the leaves in a big pot and cover them with cold water. After a few minutes of soaking, swish them around and then drain them. Repeat this two to three times as needed.

This recipe is authentically Southern. So after you've made it, the way to get everyone to the table is to yell, "Dinner's ready, y'all!"

Is there anyplace that sells fresh passion fruit? Is it out of season? I have had trouble locating it. Thanks.

You must really be in the mood for something with a sweet-tart flavor that has soft, edible seeds. If none of your local markets have them, you can always buy them from Melissa's. This is a specialty foods company that can be found on the Web at www.melissas.com, and it ships second-day delivery.

Now, unlike collard greens, this is an item that the rest of the world didn't know about until the discovery of the Americas -- it's native to South America.

Jim Coleman is executive chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, a cookbook author and host of television and radio cooking shows. Candace Hagan is a food writer and cookbook author.

Southern Ladies' Collard Greens

2 pints chicken broth

2 quarts water

1 ham hock

1 dried cayenne pepper or other hot red pepper

1/4 cup chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 pound fresh collard greens, trimmed and soaked

In a large pot, bring everything except the collard greens to a boil. Add the greens, a handful at a time, until by softening they all fit in the pot. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Serve with pepper sauce and hot vinegar.

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