I am a Texan. I grew up here in the Lone Star State, and I still live in the Dallas metroplex, not very far from where I grew up. Does that make me a little less worldly than some others? Perhaps. I’d like to think I make up for it with adventurous dishes with international flavors, like this beef curry or a big bowl of menudo. Sometimes, though, I love embracing foods a little closer to home.
I didn’t grow up eating much Southern food. My parents aren’t from the South, and so foods like grits, okra, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, or collard greens were mostly foreign to them. I discovered these foods as I grew older and started eating outside of my own home, and let me tell you – I’m hooked. A great many Southern foods are humble and simple, making them the ultimate comfort food.
Collard greens are fairly common in my home today, and for good reason. Of course, they’re a delicious comfort food, as previously stated. In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about them. But they’re also inexpensive and healthy, packing a good amount of vitamins A, C, E and calcium. I love them prepared in the traditional manner – simmered for a long time with some smoked ham hocks or bacon and onion, and doused with a bit of Tabasco when served – but I also love them prepared in a speedier and lighter manner. Surprisingly, this version is just as tasty, without the ham or bacon.
My fellow Southerners might lynch me for considering such a notion, but hear me out. There is a product out there in the world that is smoky and delicious and is not bacon. The secret to my collard greens? Smoked sun-dried tomatoes. I find mine in the Italian food section of my specialty grocery (They’re California Sun-Dry brand, and no, I’m not being paid by this company to write about these babies, I just love this product.) They’re like vegan bacon, and they’re addictive. Try sprinkling some on salads, or incorporating them into a dip. Just try not to eat them all straight out of the bag. I dare you. If you don’t have access to this ingredient, you can always substitute regular sun-dried tomatoes (or even make your own!), but you might want to include some smoked paprika or something similar to add a depth of flavor to your greens. I encourage you to seek these out though.
The other main player in these easy greens is crimini mushrooms. I love them for their meaty texture and rich umami flavor. Slice a few of these up, and you’ve added a great element to a delicious dish.
There’s not much else to it. I intentionally wanted to keep this recipe fairly straightforward, so it could still speak to the simplicity of the more traditional version. Contrary to popular belief, Southern food doesn’t have to be all butter, deep-fried, and heart-attack-inducing. Traditional foods of the South never were about those things at all. Many people in the South simply learned to create delicious dishes on very humble, inexpensive, local ingredients, and nothing went to waste. If you ask me, this should be the philosophy of any great cuisine (and is the foundation of many traditinal foods!). Serve these up alongside some gluten-free cornbread, as a side dish, or as I often do with greens, as part of a warming breakfast. But whatever you do, make them soon!
Collard Greens with Crimini Mushrooms and Smoked Sun-Dried Tomatoes (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
1 T olive oil
4 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/3 c smoked sun-dried tomatoes
1 large bunch collard greens, cut from stems and chopped
1-2 c vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms and dried tomatoes for 5-7 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Add collard greens and sauté for another minute, tossing to coat them in the remaining oil. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until greens are wilted, opening the lid to stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This post is linked to 5-Ingredient Mondays at The Daily Dietribe.