Thursday, January 8, 2009

Veggie Might: Collard Greens and Black-eyed Peas for a Smokin’ New Year

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a regular Thursday feature about all things Vegetarian.

Okay, y’all - we’re in for the winter haul, and we’ve been eating root vegetables for, what, two months already? If you’re like me, without a garden/basement freezer or the kitchen space to do any canning let alone store the jars, you may be longing to eat something green that’s in season. (Of course, I live in New York where I can get any flavorless fruit or veg any time of year, but I’m trying to avoid that.)

I bring you good tidings of great joy from down south! Collard greens are at their peak from now until April. Not only are they a nutritional powerhouse to help you kick start that healthy eating resolution, coupled with black-eyed peas, they are said to bring good luck in the New Year. I ignore the part about the ham hocks.

Collards are hearty, flat, broad greens in the cabbage family, a cousin to kale. Bursting with vitamins A, C, and K, they are traditionally slow cooked in broth until the leaves become tender. Couple them with earthy black-eyed peas, which are rich in calcium, vitamin A, and folate, and you’ll have strong bones, eyes, immune systems, and whatever K does. You will be super human in no time.

The classic Southern collards and black-eyed pea recipes call for a hog jowl or ham hock (aka pig’s “knuckle”): gross. I believe I’ve perfected a vegan version even my dad would enjoy. My secret? Vegetable stock and liquid smoke.

There are several brands of liquid smoke out there and much controversy about whether or not these products are worthy of consumption (I like Colgin, but haven’t tried Wright.). Well, speaking from a vegetarian perspective, I’d rather have a few drops of “chimney drippings” in my beans and greens than pig parts. Plus, it makes them so good!

More traditional recipes call for just water, ham hock, greens, salt and pepper. That’s it. Same for the beans. Since we’re leaving out the meat, we need a little extra boost. The vegetable stock and smoke add those extra layers. But, believe me, the flavor of the greens come through. Same for the beans.

Maybe the best thing about these two big pots of awesome is the potlikker. The broth from the collards is to be savored as much as the greens themselves, preferably by sopping it up with corn bread*. Buttermilk biscuits are a worthy second, and, if you absolutely must, you may use regular table bread.

Back in November, my office had a “multi-cultural feast” potluck, and I brought this dish. I was so proud of it, because I knew it was good, and I work with lots of vegetarians. I had so much left over. Be warned: a sloppy, drippy mess o’ greens is not meant for an office potluck. It’s meant to be shared with family and close friends who don’t mind potlikker running down your chin or theirs.

Happy new year, CHG family. May good fortune be yours all year long.

*I fall squarely in the no-sugar camp. Sugar is for muffins.

Collard Greens and Black-eyed Peas
Serves 5–6

6 cups vegetable stock (or water + 2–3 veg. bullion cubes)
4 cups torn collards
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp sea salt (probably less if you use bullion instead of stock)
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 15 oz cans black-eyed beans
2 cup vegetable stock (or water + 1 veg. bullion cubes)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 tsp natural smoke flavor
2 tsp sea salt (see above)
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1) Pour vegetable stock into a large soup pot. Add chopped onion, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, liquid smoke salt, and pepper. Begin to simmer.

2) Wash, remove stems, and tear collard leaves into pieces. Add to simmering broth.

3) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.

4) Cover for 10 minutes, then remove lid and simmer for 30 more minutes or until greens are tender.


5) Drain and rinse black-eyed peas and add to medium saucepan with vegetable stock. (Rinsing beans and using clean water or stock reduces flatulence; trust me.)

6) Add garlic, onion, liquid smoke, salt, and pepper.

7) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, adding more stock if necessary. Broth should become thickened.

8) Serve collards and black-eyed peas together with corn bread. Try not to die from happiness. It’s a brand new year with so many possibilities.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
Five servings: 200.9 calories, 1.34g fat, $1.49
Six servings: 167.4 calories, 1.12g fat, $1.25

6 cups vegetable stock (or water + 2–3 veg. bullion cubes): 72 calories, 0g fat, $.78
4 cups torn collards: 44 calories, 0g fat, $1.51
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped: 91 calories, .5g fat, $1.59
6 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped: 25.2 calories, 0g fat, $.07
1 tsp dried oregano: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 bay leaves: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 tsp liquid smoke: negligible calories and fat, $.26
2 tsp sea salt (probably less if you use bullion instead of stock): negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02

2 15 oz cans black-eyed beans: 660 calories, 6g fat, $1.58
2 cup vegetable stock (or water + 1 veg. bullion cubes): 24 calories, 0g fat, $.26
6 cloves garlic, minced: 25.2 calories, 0g fat, $.07
1 medium sweet onion, chopped: 63 calories, .2g fat, $.97
2 tsp liquid smoke: negligible calories and fat, $.26
2 tsp sea salt (see above): negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02

TOTALS: 1004.4 calories, 6.7g fat, $7.47
PER SERVING (TOTALS/5): 200.9 calories, 1.34g fat, $1.49 (5 servings)
PER SERVING (TOTALS/6): 167.4 calories, 1.12g fat, $1.25 (6 servings)

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Tinuz said...

Hmm, what is "Liquid Smoke"? Never heard of it, or seen it.

Jaime said...

This sounds great! I love collards, usually steaming them and then sauteeing in a little bbq sauce, but this sounds a lot more authentic. :)

The Blow Leprechaun said...

Sugar is for muffins. And muffins are for people who don't have the balls to order cake for breakfast.

I haven't tried using liquid smoke in vegetarian recipes, but I refuse to use vegetable stock as a rule. I've always found the taste to be awful. I usually substitute any beer on hand with a flavor profile I think will match the dish at a 1:1 rate.

Black eyed peas, for example, would probably go excellent cooked in some Abita Turbo Dog. And it's a beer from Louisiana, so you can at least pretend someone, somewhere made it that way before.

Kalyn said...

I've used the Wright brand of Liquid Smoke and it has a good flavor. It's pretty strong though. I might start with 1 tsp. and taste to see if you want more. Usually when I use it in beans I only add about 1/2 tsp. for a hint of smoky flavor.

Great recipe, I LOVE collard greens!

Chocoholic said...


Liquid Smoke is, well, liquid smoke. You capture smoke, let it condense and then the liquid you have is smoke flavored. There was a Good Eats episode on how to make it yourself. Very interesting. Of couse, it is Alton Brown. :)

MS said...

Yay Southern New Year's food! I grew up with turnip greens (they're a bit milder) instead of collard greens, so when I moved out on my own, I started making the New Year's feast for my friends. It always goes over really well, and I've made a vegetarian version of each for years using vegetable broth, sauteed onion and garlic, and an assortment of dried mushrooms (I also add canned diced tomatoes to the black-eyed peas, which I cook in my slow-cooker). It's really delicious with the mushrooms, but I'll have to give the liquid smoke a try next time.

MS said...

Oh, and I also add cumin to both for a bit of smokiness.

Amiyrah said...

no meat in the collards?! lol we don't use ham hock either in our collards, but we do use smoked turkey parts. It gives you the smoked flavor and a lean meat to beef it up. Plus, we boil the turkey leg or wing in water with a bit of seasoning before we add the collards. This essentially gives you the "broth" that you use in this recipe, but with better flavor.

... dancing monkey ... said...

I'm excited to start cooking greens, especially because they are available frozen. My vegetenarian friend flavors her greens with balsamic vinegar to counter the bitter taste, kinda like in this collard greens with balsamic vinegar recipe.

... dancing monkey ... said...

Also, please consider cheap, healthy, good potluck dishes as a good blog topic for the future! My favorite contribution is a mango black bean salad that's colorful and tasty and always gets gobbled up. I hate when I have to take home what I've brought ... :P