Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Collard Greens Stuffed with Red Beans and Rice

Now, I am not a Southern belle. Anyone who knows me even a little bit understands that this statement is true. But I am a lot closer to one now than I have ever been. In the past several years, I have: 1) Married a good Southern boy, 2) Spent a year living in Charleston, South Carolina, 3) Worked for a few months at a Southern cooking store and cooking school, and 4) Spent a number of major holidays with my Southern in-laws. Not a Southern belle yet, but I can officially hold my own preparing a few traditional Southern dishes...Well traditional except for the lack of bacon, lard and all things pig-related.

One thing that J and I really love is a good dish of collard greens. It gives us a break from kale (our favorite food and the subject of a blog post coming soon), and is incredibly healthy, hearty and inexpensive. This dish is nearly identical to the recipe I originally found on my beloved Fat Free Vegan blog. I changed a few spices and flavors to give it a more Southern flavor. A complete list of ingredients is below:

1 cup cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups cooked small red beans
1 large onion, diced
1 green or yellow pepper, chopped
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 15-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. Tapatio or other hot sauce of your choice
1 Tbps. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste
12 large collard leaves

First prepare the collard leaves. Buy one large bunch and then select the biggest and best 12 leaves. A bunch will usually have about 15 leaves or so but some will be small or deformed. Don't throw those ones away, just use them in your next stir fry or whatever. You can even chop them and eat them raw in a salad. You want to clean up each leaf so that it will be the perfect little wrap for your rice and bean mixture.

Wash the leaves in cold water and cut off the bottom of the leaves so that the shape is a fairly uniform circle or oval or whatever it may be. Then use a sharp, thin knife to slice out the tough part of the stem. You are basically 'de-boning' the collard. While you are cleaning up the collards, boil a large pot of salted water. In two batches of 6, blanch the leaves in the boiling water for about 2 minutes. Rinse the leaves in cold water, and set aside stacked on a flat surface.

This recipe is a great example of why I never make a little bit of rice or beans. If I'm going to spend the 45 minutes or more cooking up rice or boiling beans, I make a lot of it and try to use them in a couple dishes. Somehow they always manage to get used up. In this case you need 1 cup of cooked rice and 1 1/2 cup of cooked red beans. I guess you could use canned beans, but I think kidney beans are a little too big for this and I don't often see these little red beans in cans. It's really easy to make dry beans and I'm trying to do it more often. It's also way cheaper than the canned ones.

Heat a large skillet and saute the onion with a pinch of salt. When the onion begins to brown, add the bell pepper, celery and garlic and cook until all vegetables are tender but not done. Take about 3/4 cup of the veggie mixture and mix it with the can of fire roasted tomatoes. I put these in a blender for a little mix, but you could use it chunky if you wanted to. Set the tomato mixture aside.

Add the rice and beans to the skillet with the remaining veggies and add in the seasonings, hot sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke and about 1/4 cup of vegetable broth or water. Reduce the heat and cook on low for about 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the little rolls, spoon half of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a long casserole dish. Put the first collard in front of you with the trimmed side up and the stem closest to you. Place about 3 Tbsp. of the rice/bean mixture about a quarter of the way from the bottom. Roll the bottom up once, then fold the sides over each edge. Tightly roll up the rest of the way and place into the casserole dish. Repeat 11 more times.

Once you are done, spoon the rest of the tomato mixture over the top and cover with foil. Bake the dish for about 40 minutes and you're done!

I have to admit that I love these little rolls because of how cute they are. It takes a little time to assemble them all, but once you get the hang of it, it's not a big deal. It really serves up elegantly and is another great twist on traditional beans and rice-a vegan's best friends!

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