The everyday cook is wary and watchful. She frets over the littlest of things, the panfried vegetables that turn color when overdone, broiled meat that is a hub for carcinogens..the list is endless, especially when these terms are used ever so casually around her. When at a fancy restaurant, she marvels at the menu and likes how words like poached, stewed, infused and steeped describe even the simplest of dishes with flair. At times she is just a wee bit disappointed when she discovers that some of these techniques turn out to be just what she learned sitting at her grandma’s knee.
Which is why she is suitably stoked when www.epicurious.com throws “braising” in her face, “a cooking method by which food (usually meat or vegetables) is first browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a lengthy period of time.” She has been there, done that, for God knows how many years, with her everyday sabzis, topped with glorious tadkas for extra pop. Tossing out the unbearable lightness with which these definitions are used, she comes up with a simple and delicious way to cook wholesome dark leafy greens.
Her method works with most greens, though the ones with sturdier shoots would benefit most from this treatment. The toughest collard greens are a challenge, their leathery leaves and fibrous ribs taking a good half hour to break down to a velvety smoothness. She recommends that you try this method with whatever is fresh and verdant at the market, chard, mustard, spinach, kale or even beetroot greens, altering the liquids and cooking times to suit their textures accordingly.
Braised Collard Greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green chilies, slit
1 big bunch of collard greens, chopped
1/4 cup of water
½ can coconut milk, or more if you are feeling indulgent
Salt and pepper to taste
Spices – pinch of nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon garam masala
In a heavy-bottom pot, warm the oil and let the onions cook until translucent. Toss in the garlic and chilies and after a minute, pile in the chopped greens. Turn up the heat and keep stirring as the wilting heap reduces in volume and then add the coconut milk, a quarter cup of water, salt and pepper. Adjust the liquids so that they barely submerge the leafy mass in the pot. Cover and cook on low heat until the greens are tender.
Remove the lid and let the excess water evaporate, then add the spices and check for salt (as a thumb rule, greens take very little salt). It may not be the best-looking dish ever created, but as you finish your meal, you will find yourself wiping the pot clean with a scrap of bread or a spoonful of rice, unwilling to waste even a morsel.