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Thursday, January 01, 2009

indian diced potatoes with greens

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collard greens and a happy new year!!

Eating black-eyed peas and collards on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring prosperity in the coming year. I’ve read that collards are supposed to symbolize greenbacks, and I guess black-eyed peas represent coins? Even if you’re not superstitious, in today’s financial climate, it’s probably wise to eat collards… I can think of several concrete ways that collards can boost your budget.

1. As vegetables go, collards are pretty darn cheap—so if you eat plenty of them, you’ll end up saving money! There’s some extra greenbacks!

2. We’re always reading about the health benefits of eating green vegetables—especially those in the Brassica family, like collards, broccoli, kale, and cabbage.  A quick search of the web turned up a trove of health reasons to eat collards; they help prevent cancer, soak up nasty free radicals and eliminate toxic compounds, provide calcium for bone strength, and contribute folate and vitamin B6 for our blood vessels. So you’ll be saving all kinds of money by not going to the doctor’s office! Sheesh, collards are way cheaper than a triple bypass! 

3. And you know what? If you cook collards right, they taste great! I always parboil my collards in salted water to remove some of the bitterness, which makes them a lot more tender and delicious. (Some of my friends claim this is removing the nutrients, too—but if I didn’t parboil them, I wouldn’t eat them. So I think washing a few nutrients down the drain is worth the trade-off.) If you’re at home eating yummy collards, you’re not spending money at a restaurant!

4. Even though collards are traditional Southern fare, they grow very well in northern climates, too. Here in Alaska our farmers grow bountiful crops of them in the summer, so processing and freezing them for the winter can really save you a bundle. You can watch my YouTube video, linked below, on how to process collards, and be ready for next summer. Then you can buy loads of collards from your local farmer for a song!

This delicious Indian recipe is definitely not the traditional Southern braised collard greens to go with Hoppin’ John, but I love it! The original recipe (from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking) called for spinach, but collards are so much more satisfying and sturdy. (Don’t you hate how spinach cooks down to a tenth of its original bulk?) Plus, as mentioned above, collards are way less expensive! Try this recipe, and you’ll be reaping all those benefits of collards—financial and otherwise—all year long! 


indian diced potatoes with greens

I’ve made and loved this recipe for years—it’s a variation on one in Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking.  You can find both the mustard seeds and the garam masala at Summit Spice & Tea Co. (1120 E Huffman Rd #4, in Anchorage), or in the gourmet spice section at most grocery stores. I usually serve this with garlicky yogurt sauce (recipe follows)—it’s the perfect combination, and it’s really very easy. I don’t think you even need to serve rice alongside (because of the potatoes), but it’s good with brown basmati rice (recipe also follows) or pita bread.

2 pounds waxy potatoes (e.g., Yukon Gold)
sea salt and kosher salt
1 to 2 pounds collard greens or kale
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon whole black or brown mustard seeds
1 to 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon garam masala (Indian spice mixture)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
garlicky yogurt sauce (optional; recipe below)

1. Bring 2 ½ quarts of water to a boil. Peel potatoes if you like (I don’t bother) and dice into ¾-inch cubes, then add to boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil again. Cover, turn heat to low and cook potatoes until they are tender—about 6 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain. Spread potatoes out and leave to cool.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt it well.
3. Cut the long stems away from the collard or kale leaves. Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice the leaves into 1-inch wide ribbons.
4. Plunge the greens into the pot of boiling salted water, and cook until tender. This could take as long as 8 or 10 minutes, but could be much shorter. Start tasting after 5 minutes. Drain the greens and set aside.
5. Heat oil in a heavy, 12-inch, preferably nonstick skillet over a medium-high flame. When very hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds begin to pop (this just takes a few seconds), add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Turn heat to medium and fry for 3 to 4 minutes. Onions should turn very lightly brown at the edges. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or two. Now put in the chopped greens and keep stirring and frying for another 10 minutes. If the greens aren’t meltingly tender, add a cup or so of water and let them simmer on low heat, covered, stirring occasionally.
6. Add the cooked potatoes, the garam masala, and the cayenne pepper. Stir and mix gently until potatoes are heated through. Taste for salt and add more as necessary.  Serve with garlicky yogurt sauce, and rice if you like!


garlicky yogurt sauce (raita)

2 cups plain yogurt
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

Put the yogurt in a bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, taste for more salt, and chill until needed.


brown basmati rice
I learned this technique from Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven, a great cookbook with lots of healthy, simple vegetable recipes. The rice is cooked using lots of water, which I find works perfectly for brown basmati—it’s never gummy or undercooked this way.

1 1/2 cups uncooked brown basmati rice
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt

1. Fill a medium-sized pot with 10 cups or so of water (it doesn’t need to be exact) and bring to a rolling boil. Add the rice to the water, turn down the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is just tender.
2. Drain the rice in a strainer over the sink, and immediately dump rice back into the hot pot. Cover tightly with the lid and let steam OFF THE HEAT for 20 minutes. Fluff the rice.


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