Who would have guessed but collard greens are a staple food here in Brazil. Eating the traditional Brazilian Feijoada (meat and black bean stew) without a side of collard greens is just not right. Before coming here I didn’t even know what a collard green was. In fact, my only experience with leafy greens was limited to lettuce and spinach. But when I go to the farmer’s market we have by our house every Sunday morning, there’s always a huge stall with all kinds of cabbages, root vegetables and greens. Oh my. Mustard greens, beet greens, chard, dandelion greens, collard greens, spinach and so on. So many choices. It’s my favorite moment of the market, plus I think one of the sellers there has a little crush on me because he always insists on filling my order and digging up the greenest, leafiest collards for me. How I interpret a big leafy collard as code for flirt, I sometimes honestly wonder where I get these ideas.
I haven’t ventured to try out all the greens they sell on the market because (here comes my lame excuse) cleaning greens is pretty labor intensive and, aside from refilling the water filter, cleaning vegetables is probably my second least favorite thing to do in the kitchen. Collards are big, smooth leaves, very quick to run under water and clean in seconds, unlike spinach or dandelion which practically need a soothing bath and massage to be edible. So I’ve been sticking with collards for a while, buying a big bunch every week, and they’ve made their way into many meals such as vegetable stir-fries, soups, eggs and omelettes, salads or just as a side. But having kept them in the background of things for such a long time, it was time to make them the main character of a recipe.
I’m not sure the collards are actually the star of this recipe, since the meat mixture is pretty awesome and sort of steals their thunder, but their name is in the title of the recipe so I still say they’re playing the role of a lifetime. I’m not one to use the word “cute” very liberally but I must say, these little meat-collard packages are so cute they look like they could practically be posted in the mail. Don’t laugh, I get affectionate with my food when I’m pleased with how it turns out.
Recipe: Stuffed Collard Greens
Makes 8 stuffed collards
1.2 lbs (600 grams) of ground beef
8 collard greens
1 onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup (8g) of fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup (50-60g) of almonds, hazelnuts or pine nuts (I used a mixture of all three)
1 tbsp Ras-el-Hanout Morrocan spice blend
2/3 cup (150 mL) of vegetable or beef stock
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C).
2. Set a large pot of water to boil. Wash the collard greens and blanch them in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pot and place them in a large bowl of cold water to cool them.
3. Finely chop the onion, garlic and parsley. Coarsely chop the nuts. Mix the ingredients with the ground meat and spices. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Lay out 1 collard green on a board or a clean worktop. Form a patty with 2 heaping tablespoons of meat mixture and place it in the upper center of the leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf towards the center on top of the patty, fold over the top and roll into a small package. Repeat with each collard.
5. Place the stuffed collards in a baking dish, fill the bottom of the dish with the vegetable or meat stock (it should come up to about 1/3 of the collards) and cover with aluminium foil. Cook for 30 minutes, then uncover and roast for 5 more minutes.