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Stuffed Collard Leaves

This time of year, we find ourselves eating greens of one kind or another almost every day. Cabbage, bok choy, spinach, tatsoi, collards, swiss chard, mustard greens, and kale are just some of the greens vying for position in our crisper drawers.

Greens are abundant cool weather crops that can add a healthy dose of chlorophyll to a diet of winter storage vegetables, but they can also be something of a challenge. After eating sautéed greens for the umpteenth time, you start fantasizing about asparagus and green peas before winter has properly begun. Not for another six months, buddy! However, as greens are ubiquitous in most temperate climes, peasant cultures around the world have developed an arsenal of green-centric recipes for us to fall back on when inspiration fails us.

From Caldo Verde, the Portuguese greens soup, to Saag Paneer, the Indian spinach and mustard green stew, ethnic cuisines have your back. This is where I looked for inspiration for the bunch of collard greens in our fridge. Normally, I would just make Southern-style collard greens, but I've used that crutch one too many times this fall already.

This recipe is based on Polish golumpkis, cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and vegetables and then gently stewed in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. There are two recipes for this hearty dish in JOY--one stuffed with a kasha and bulgur filling, and one with a ground beef and rice filling. Mine lies somewhere between the two, a vegetarian version featuring lentils that is hearty enough to warm you right to the bones but that is largely healthy. Served with egg noodles and sour cream, you have a complete meal.

Don't let yourself be deterred by the long ingredient list--most of the items involved are pantry staples, and you can substitute or omit ingredients as you see fit. You may wish to use rice instead of lentils, regular mushrooms instead of shiitakes (we really like the flavor boost they give to many dishes, and we always have a large bag of them of hand that we purchase, inexpensively, at an Asian supermarket), and cabbage, chard, or kale leaves instead of collards.

Other articles you might enjoy: Raw Kale Salad With Pepitas and Parmesan

Stuffed Collard Leaves
Serves 6 to 10

Simmer gently over medium heat until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes:
     1/2 cup French, brown, or green lentils
     1 cup water

Combine the lentils in a large bowl with:
     1 carrot, diced
     1 stalk celery, diced
     1 medium-sized beet (about 3 to 4 ounces), diced
     1/4 cup minced parsley
     1 small onion, diced
     1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for 10 minutes in boiling water and minced (reserve the soaking water)
     (1/4 cup dried currants)
     1/4 cup bread crumbs
     (1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, diced)
     3 cloves garlic, minced
     1 teaspoon salt
     1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
Prepare the tomato sauce. Heat in a Dutch oven over medium heat:
     2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Add and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes:
     1 large onion, diced
     1 carrot, diced
     1 celery stalk, diced

Add and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes:
     4 cloves garlic, minced
     1 bay leaf
     1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh
     1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh
     1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add and cook, stirring frequently, until evaporated:
     1/2 cup dry white wine
Add and bring to a simmer:
     28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped
     1 cup of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid
     1 teaspoon salt
     1/2 teaspoon black pepper
     1 tablespoon sugar

Meanwhile, blanch in boiling water until tender, about 1 minute:
     1 bunch collard greens (if you can find any on the smaller side, that would be ideal)
Drain the collard leaves, and trim off any tough stalks. Place about 1/4 cup of the lentil filling in the center of the leaf (you may need to use more or less filling depending on the size of the leaf). Fold the base of the leaf over the filling. Fold in the sides, and roll up the leaf. This is the same general concept as rolling up a burrito. Place the leaf, seam-side down, in the tomato sauce. If the leaf wants to unroll, simply skewer it with a toothpick or cut wooden skewer, or use kitchen twine to secure it. Repeat this process with the remaining leaves.
Cover the Dutch oven and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 1 hour.
Serve the stuffed leaves over rice or egg noodles with:
     (Sour cream or plain yogurt)
     Chopped chives


Cecilie's picture

This is so lovely - delicious looking and vegan, oh my goodness.

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Preheat the oven to 350°F. Split open:
        12 small rolls, store-bought or homemade
Combine in a small bowl:
        1/2 stick softened butter...