Olive Oil Braised Collard Greens

A low and slow braise in olive oil infused with onions and garlic transform collard greens into a silky smooth and luxurious side dish.


I just recently celebrated the first anniversary of my cancer surgery. Yes, cancer. It's the main reason that this site hasn't had a new recipe in more than a year. 

I spent most of 2020 feeling slightly under the weather. Cooking, styling and photographing new recipes took me three times as long to complete as they had the year before. With the newness of COVID, I chalked it up to the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic. Until November, when my body finally yelled that something was wrong, forcing me to reach out to my primary doctor.

The earliest appointment I could get was for the first week of January. I lived with shooting pain so strong it had me curled up in a ball for most of December. My primary sent me to an OB/GYN who ran tests that she concluded required me to see another specialist. On March 3, I had an endometrial biopsy. On March 5, I received a cancer diagnosis. 

I was sitting across from an oncologist two weeks later as he went over his plan for my treatment.

"Of all cancers to have," he stated, "this is a good one to get, especially if caught early, which yours has been."

Endometrial endometeroid adenocarcinoma. 

So. Many. Long. Words. 

My oncologist explained that the biopsy results indicated Type 1 — the type with the highest survival rate, he assured me. He wouldn't know the stage until after the radical hysterectomy, which would allow for thorough tissue testing. 

I had surgery in April 2021, one day before my birthday. They couldn't map one lymph node during the procedure, so they biopsied it. Two weeks later, I returned to the oncologist for my results. There was no cancer in my lymph node, and my cancer had only gone 1 centimeter deep into my uterine wall. The waves of relief and gratitude that washed over me when my oncologist said I wouldn't need radiation or chemotherapy are challenging for me to describe accurately.

After the initial shock of the diagnosis, I did all I could to put my faith in God and the medical team around me to see me through. Having good insurance, an employer and immediate supervisor who did all they could to support me during my recovery, and family and friends praying for me, my outcome was far better than most.

Slowly, I regained the strength to cook for myself and my auntie again. I even resumed the monthly themed dinners with two of my sisters, who love to cook and eat globally as much as I do. I've done a few reshoots of recipes for my weekly newspaper column. And for the most part, I was amazed at the level of energy I had following those cooking/shooting sessions, especially considering how much they wiped me out pre-surgery. 

I hope to get back to recipe developing, styling and photographing food for this space over the next few months. In the meantime, I am finally processing the photos of this 2020 shoot for olive oil braised collard greens.


Raw, lightly steamed, stewed or sautéed, collard greens are one of my favorite vegetables. Collards are a low-calorie, high fiber nutrient-dense food. They're a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, arugula, mustard greens, and other dark green leafy vegetables. Besides being great calcium bombs, collard greens are packed with phytonutrients and are a good source of vitamins A, C, E and K, iron, magnesium and folate.


Olive oil braised collards became a favorite dish to eat after coming across this method in early 2019 of cooking them in olive oil. Even though greens might not make your comfort food list, these fit that bill for me. The long slow braise in garlic-forward heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil breaks down the fibrous leaves, transforming them into a surprisingly silky smooth bite. Served on the side of lemony grilled chicken breast, it might be one of my favorite home-cooked meals of the past two years.


I start preparing the collards by cutting out the center rib. Next, I separate the two halves of the leaf, stack them and slice them in half again, then slice them into 2-inch long ribbons.


Then I cut them down into 2-inch pieces.


Because collards need a good rinse, I prefer to trim them first, then place the pieces in a bowl of cool water, swishing them well before draining and repeating once more.


I peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Although I have noted six fat cloves of garlic in the recipe, I have used as many as ten with good results, especially if you're a garlic lover like I am. The long slow braise tames their pungency.


I usually only have white onions on hand, but I like to swap in a sweet onion if I have one––it's divine in this dish. I just rough chop half an onion.


A good quality California extra-virgin olive oil ties everything together. Besides the extended low and slow braise in the oil, a drizzle at the end adds even more richness. My two favorite oils are California Olive Ranch's 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cobram Estate's California Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil (actually, any of Cobram's offerings are good choices).

Once the oil is just starting to shimmer, toss in the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring to incorporate, and cook for 2 minutes. 


Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.


Add a handful of the collard greens, stirring to wilt before adding more; repeat, adding a little at a time until all the collards have been added and wilted down.


Add the water, bouillon and pepper, stirring to incorporate. 


Lower temp to a gentle simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 1 to 1½ hours until the collards have thoroughly softened and changed to dark, olive green. 


Optionally, finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.


Olive Oil Braised Collard Greens

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large bunch collard greens (6-8 large leaves)
½ large onion
6 fat cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup water
1 tablespoon Knorr's chicken bouillon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Lemon wedge, to finish, optional

Directions

Remove and discard the center rib from the collard greens, then chop the leaves into 2-inch pieces. Rinse the greens well. Rough chop the onion. Thinly slice the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low. Once the oil is just starting to shimmer, toss in the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring to incorporate, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add a handful of the collard greens, stirring to wilt before adding more; repeat, adding a little at a time until all the collards have been added and wilted down. Add the water, bouillon and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Lower temp to a gentle simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 1 to 1½ hours until the collards have thoroughly softened and changed to dark, olive green. Optionally, finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Until next time...
Be well friends,
Ani

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