By Chef Mario
Cultivar Acephala, Greek for “without a head” is a member of the prolific and illustrious species Brassica oleracea, the same one that brought you cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Eaten all over Africa and the Mediteranean, in the United States it is enjoyed mainly in the southern states, famously paired with black eyed peas as a culinary good luck charm on New Years Day. It’s thick stems and waxy leaves can look intriging, if univiting for those not in the know, but with a little love these flavorful, nutricious greens packed with vitamin C and fiber can be a meal in and of themselves. Typically they are braised with salted, fatty meat such as hamhock, salt pork, or bacon, but that can be omitted, especially with the younger, more tender leaves such as the ones in your CSA share today.
For best results, slice across the leaves and stem, using everything. You want finger width slices. In a heavy bottom pot render your fat. Once that is rendered nicely add a clove or two of smashed garlic. If you are leaving out the pork just add your smashed garlic to a few tables of olive oil. These greens love fat, so don’t skimp on the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Next add your sliced collards, and stir for a minute, then add water about halfway up and bring to a boil. A splash of cider vinegar or balsamic wouldn’t hurt. Now reduce to a tiny simmer, cover with a lid and cook until the stems are tender. With the larger leaves you might find at the store that could be anywhere from an hour to two hours, but yours should take a fraction of that. Just check from time to time to make sure that you have enough liquid. And again, you’re really looking for tendrness in the stems. The leaves willl cook quicker, but will not overcook. At the end you will probably have a bit of liquid left. Don’t throw that out. It’s great soaked up by a fresh batch of corn bread, or maybe even focaccia!