Although I’ve made greens for years, I’ve never fooled with the initial “blanch and squeeze” instructions in most recipes.
Happily, the greens recipe in “The Southern Vegetarian” cookbook calls for a quick blanch without the squeeze, so I complied. In fact, I followed the recipe for “Collard Greens with Honey, Shallots, and Mushrooms” exactly as it was written by the book’s authors, Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence. I was rewarded with what my husband said were the best greens I’ve ever made.
Along with the blanching, the recipe’s success comes from shallots (I normally use onions) and a drizzle of honey added at the end. The couple has been adding honey to greens for the last decade or so after a checker at the former Seesel’s on Union Avenue shared the tip.
"Vicki asked us what we put in greens if we didn't add a hock," Burks recalled. "We explained how we made them, and she asked us if we ever added a touch of honey to greens. We thought it sounded crazy good and have been adding honey every since."
Similar stories about family, friends, and food make the couple’s new vegetarian cookbook accessible and fun to read. See for yourself at a discussion and book signing Tuesday, June 4, at 6 p.m. at The Booksellers at Laurelwood. The authors also will share snacks made with recipes from the book, which includes updated family favorites such as "Curried Cauliflower Soup," a recipe adaptation from a 1971 cookbook put together by the Jackson, Mississippi, Junior League. Lawrence’s mom has been serving the soup on Christmas Day for three decades.
“Nowadays, we get her to make some the exact same way without chicken stock,” Lawrence said. “When we make it, we add more curry and we roast the cauliflower first which adds a ton of flavor.”
(Book signing for "The Southern Vegetarian," June 4, 6 p.m. at The Booksellers at Laurelwood)
Collard Greens (Or Any Greens!) with Honey, Shallots, and Mushrooms
4 quarts water
1/4 cup iodized salt
2 bunches collards (6 to 8 cups when trimmed)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced shallot
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hickory smoked sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon honey
In an 8-quart stock pot, bring the water and salt up to a boil. Use a paring knife to trim the leaves of the greens away from the tough stems--simply run your knife along the stem. Roll leaves and trim into half-inch ribbons. You should have 6 to 8 cups of leaves once the greens are trimmed and sliced. Blanch the leaves in salt water for two minutes or until the leaves turn bright green. Remove the leaves from the water into the colander to drain. Carefully discard the water down the drain; run a little cold water while you pour the hot water out so you don't damage your plumbing.
Return the pot to the burner. Over high heat add the canola oil and then the mushrooms in a single layer in the bottom of the pan. Allow the mushrooms to cook undisturbed for 3 minutes or until they get some color on them. Turn the heat to low. Add the shallot, pepper, smoked salt, and garlic powder. Sauté until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the collard greens and drizzle in the honey. Toss the greens with tongs to incorporate all the ingredients. Cover and keep the greens warm over very low heat until you're ready to serve them. (Makes 4 servings.)
Curried Cauliflower Soup
1 large head cauliflower (broken into florets, stems chopped, 4 to 5 cups)
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 cups diced onion (about 1 medium)
2 tablespoons red curry paste
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
Sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon basil oil or chopped fresh basil
Thinly sliced hot peppers (optional)
1/4 cup chopped green onions or chives (to garnish)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Toss the cauliflower in 2 tablespoons of canola oil and spread onto a large baking sheet; roast until the tips of the cauliflower are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the cauliflower from the oven. In a large soup pot over medium heat, sweat the onion in the remaining tablespoon of canola oil until translucent, about three minutes. Add the curry paste and lemon zest. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
Add all the cauliflower stems and half of the florets to the pot, along with the vegetable stock, coconut milk, vinegar, and sugar. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Check for seasoning and add salt if needed. Ladle the soup into a bowl, top with 1/4 cup of the roasted cauliflower florets, a drizzle of basil oil or fresh basil, hot peppers, and a sprinkling of chives. (Makes 4 servings as a first course or 2 as a main dish.)