A Good Reason to Give Kale a Rest

Collard Greens Basics

Move over, kale; the collard greens are coming. Collards are a staple in many Southern dishes and add healthy nutrients to any meal. Traditionally, collards are paired with ham hocks and other pork for flavor and richness, but we have plenty of delicious vegetarian options.

In Season: The peak season for collard greens is January through April, though many supermarkets carry them year-round.

What to Look For: Choose collards with deep-green leaves. Avoid those that are limp or have yellow spots. The smaller the leaves, the more tender they will be.

How to Store: Wrap unwashed collard greens in damp paper towels and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Stored like this, your greens will keep for up to five days. Wash thoroughly before cooking.

Related: 14 New, Lighter Comfort Food Ideas

Collard Greens with Bacon

This is a classic recipe for collard greens, where they’re braised with bacon and onion and brightened with a splash of cider vinegar. For maximum flavor and tenderness, cook the greens a few hours in advance, store in the refrigerator, and reheat them just before serving.

2 bunches collard greens, stemmed
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, sliced
3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock

1. Working in batches, stack greens; cut crosswise into 2-inch-thick strips. Gather strips; cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water; swish to remove grit. Transfer greens to a colander using a slotted spoon; let drain. Repeat until greens are free of grit.

2. Heat oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bacon; cook until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add greens; cook, stirring, until greens begin to wilt and are reduced in volume.

3. Raise heat to high; add vinegar. Cook, scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet, until vinegar has evaporated, about 1 minute.

4. Add stock; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, until greens are just tender, 12 to 14 minutes. If making ahead, refrigerate, covered; reheat over low heat.

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Spaghetti with Collard Greens and Lemon

A handful of lemon zest coats the noodles and lends brightness to the collards in this quick pasta dish. The recipe calls for farro pasta, which has a complex, nutty flavor, but you could substitute whole-wheat pasta.

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bunch collard greens (12 oz), ribs removed, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Coarse salt
12 oz farro spaghetti
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic and pepper flakes until tender, about 1 minute. Add greens and cook, stirring until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pine nuts and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt.

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in well-salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and then drain.

3. Add pasta to skillet, tossing to coat, and add reserved water to adjust consistency. Sprinkle with lemon zest and cheese before serving.

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Minestrone with Collard Greens and White Beans

Collard greens replace the usual kale or spinach in this vegetarian minestrone soup. In addition to the canned diced tomatoes and collard greens, other vegetables, such as carrots, cauliflower, celery, or green beans, can be added.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound (about 2 bunches) collard greens, stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 cans (19 ounces each) white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice
Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until onion is coated, about 30 seconds. Add collard greens, thyme, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until collards start to wilt, 2 to 4 minutes.

2. Place 1/4 of beans in a bowl, and mash them with the back of a spoon (this will help thicken soup). Add all the beans to the pan, as well as tomatoes with juice and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer, until collards are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; serve with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Related: 22 Chicken Dinner Recipes in Less Than 30 Minutes

Chicken, Collard Greens, and Sweet Potato Stew

Hearty but not heavy, this satisfying chicken stew combines dark leafy collard greens with tender chicken, sweet potato, and brown rice for a colorful and warming dinner.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8 ounces each)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups coarsely chopped collard greens
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sear until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside.

2. Add onion and celery and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Deglaze with vinegar, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add sweet potatoes, collard greens, stock, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Shred chicken, add to pot, and cook until heated through. Stir in rice and season with salt and pepper.

Sauteed Collard Greens with Raisins

Raisins add pleasing bursts of sweetness, and toasted almonds add crunch to sauteed collard greens. To turn this side dish into a complete meal, toss the greens with penne pasta and add cannellini beans or chickpeas.

1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds (about 2 bunches) collard greens, stalks removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast until golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add collard greens and raisins; cook, tossing occasionally, until collards are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar. Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds.

Gumbo Z’Herbes

Also called green gumbo, this classic Louisiana dish is traditionally served on Good Friday, but it’s just as delicious on other occasions. In addition to collard and mustard greens, use any other greens you like in your gumbo z’herbes: turnip, beet, and dandelion greens; spinach; watercress; parsley; and arugula.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ham hocks (about 1 1/2 pounds total), with several 1/2-inch slits cut into them
1 medium onion, chopped
3 bunches (3 pounds total) mixed collard and mustard greens, rinsed and chopped
3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Coarse salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cooked white rice, for serving

Cook’s Note
After simmering for a couple of hours, the meat is so tender it’s easy to shred. Pull it from the bone with two forks.

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium. Add ham hocks and onion; cook until onion has softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Add greens; cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, 7 to 9 minutes. Add broth, 6 cups water, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme; season with salt and cayenne.

3. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook the gumbo 2 1/2 hours, or until ham hocks are tender and greens are very tender.

4. Remove ham hocks from pot; shred meat, discarding skin and bones. Return meat to gumbo. Remove and discard bay leaf. Season with salt, and serve over rice.

Shrimp with Bacon and Collards

In this quick supper, collard greens are braised with canned diced tomatoes and shrimp, topped with crisp bits of bacon, and served over rice. Bonus: This easy dish is made in one pan.

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup long-grain white rice
4 slices bacon, thinly sliced crosswise
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 bunch collard greens, center ribs removed, leaves sliced crosswise
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Hot-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, for serving

Cook’s Note
To prep the collard greens, stack a few leaves, fold them in half lengthwise, and cut out the tough center rib. Then, with the leaves folded, slice crosswise.

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups salted water to a boil. Add rice and return to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, over medium until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add garlic and onion to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and collards; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until collards are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Wipe skillet clean.

3. In skillet, heat oil over medium-high and add shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes. Add collard mixture and cook until shrimp are opaque throughout, 2 minutes. To serve, spoon mixture over rice and top with bacon and a few dashes hot sauce.

More from Martha Stewart:
Quick, One-Pot Meal Ideas To Feed the Whole Family
Grilled Cheeese Recipes for Grown-Ups

How about drinking your greens?