Relatives of kale but with sturdier leaves, collards can be cooked quickly or long and slow, on their own or with other ingredients. It depends on the dish you're making, the freshness of the greens, and if you're using the inner or outer leaves. Some collard dishes make a total meal and fill a serving plate, while others are a side dish for meats or poultry.
When you cook collards in chicken stock or water for 20 to 40 minutes, with or without a ham bone or chunks of pork, they turn soft and silky. Serve the greens as a side dish and save the liquid for soup, or pile the greens and a good amount of liquid onto toasted bread and top them with a fried egg, sprinkles of browned tofu or bacon and a bit of grated Parmesan to serve a meal-on-a-plate, satisfying dinner.
If you cook collards for about 10 to 15 minutes with a cup of water for each pound of greens, they keep their cabbage-like flavor and still have a bit of chewy texture, which makes them pair well with spaghetti or linguine. Cook the pasta separately and add it to collards just before serving, allowing the pasta to absorb the collards' liquid. Add a splash of sherry or cider vinegar and a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds just before serving the dish piping hot from the pot.
Use a large, inner collard leaf, blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes, as a wrap for a filling of rice, beans, cooked chicken and crunchy pumpkin seeds to serve at room temperature for lunch. For a hot dish, roll a piece of halibut or salmon in a blanched leaf and grill the packet or gently poach it until the fish is cooked, about 12 minutes or until it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Serve the wrap drizzled with Greek yogurt sauce or a tomato salsa.
Simmering chopped collard greens and chopped onions until they are just tender, about 10 minutes, gives you the base for soups. Make Portuguese caldo verde by including cooked sausage and potatoes. Just before serving, add a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Or, place cooked collards in the blender to create a puree for cream soup. Return the mix to the stove and add about 1 cup of whole milk for every 2 cups of greens. Gently reheat the mixture and serve the soup with chopped scallions or crunchy croutons.
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