Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick Asian-style Collard Greens

Asian Style Collards on Japanese Plate
Quick Asian-style Collards Plated

Recipe Inspired by Live Earth Farm

This recipe is a variation of my Hot Kale Salad with Balsamic & Hot Chili Oil, which in turn was inspired by Debbie Palmer, kitchen wizard and Live Earth Farm’s CSA coordinator emeritus. Debbie’s original recipe uses lemon juice in place of vinegar and parmesan in place of sesame seeds. She uses this to dress all kinds of greens. I've made more complex sauces for Asian Greens, but this simpler, faster recipe is surprisingly tasty.

Collard greens are heavier in flavor and texture than many greens, and must be cooked longer. I use a double dose of sesame to stand up to and compliment the strong collard flavor. You will notice that collard greens repel water slightly, so that collards boiled in salty water don’t taste as salty as other greens prepared the same way. For this reason, you might want to add a touch of salt to compliment the rice vinegar before serving, or at the table.

Collard Green with Beaded-up Water
Collard Greens Repel Water
I recommend using plain sesame oil—toasted sesame oil paired with the strong flavor of these greens is too much of a good thing, too dark and smoky. If you want to add a little more flavor, like my husband Bruce does, try a shake or two of hot chili oil or a squirt of Asian hot chili sauce on top.

You can experiment with cooking times to see how well-done you like your collards. At this time of the year collards are relatively small and tender, and I would taste-test them after about 5 minutes. They will likely be tender by 7-8 minutes, but old tough collards can go for 10 or more. Also, you might prefer your greens less well-cooked than I do, so start with a shorter cooking time and work your way up to the level of done-ness that you like best.

Update April 11, 2012: You might be lucky enough to find young collard greens early in the season. They're small, only a couple of inches longer than your hand, and exceptionally tender.   Cook young colllards about 4-5 minutes total, or less. Start checking them at about 2 minutes.

Collard Greens on Cutting Board
Cut and Dressed on Cutting Board
Quick Asian-Style Collard Greens
serves 3 - 4

1 medium to large bunch of collard greens
1 ½ qts. water, approximately
3 tbsp. sea salt, approximately
1 – 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 ½ tsp. sesame oil, approximately
freshly ground pepper and salt
1 ½ tsp. sesame seeds, approximately
high-quality hot chili oil or Asian hot chili sauce, optional

Collard Green Separated from its Stem
Zzzzip off Leaves from Stems
Tip from Debbie: Strip the collard leaves from the stems by holding the stem in one hand and zzzzipping off the leaves--faster and easier than cutting them off with a knife. Discard or compost the stems. Don't chop the leaves until after they're cooked.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water well—so it’s similar to seawater. Add the collards and turn heat down to medium high. Poke collards down into the boiling water a couple of times to submerge them. Cook several minutes. Check after 5 minutes, to see if they’re tender. If not done, test again every two minutes. Collards are heftier and stringier than most greens, so be sure to test the vein-y parts of the leaves as well as the smooth parts.

Drain greens in a strainer, squeezing out excess water with the back of a wooden spoon. As Debbie points out: You will discover your large pile of raw greens has shrunk considerably! Pile the cooked greens on a cutting board and chop or cut into crosswise sections—to make the large hefty leaves less unwieldy for diners. Drizzle first with rice vinegar, then with sesame oil, spreading each with the back of a spoon to distribute evenly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Top with a couple grinds of fresh black pepper and a tiny bit of salt. Move to serving plate. Serve with hot oil or Asian hot chili sauce at the table if desired.


  1. A very interesting dish. I would like to try it myself and I think it will be as good as I imagined.

  2. I hope you like it. It's very easy to make.