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Tommy C. Simmons, An enthusiastic cook
Photograph Tommy C. Simmons

The nip in the air proclaims it’s time for collards and potlikker. I’ve already picked a few leaves from my young collard plants, but these tender collards cooked so fast they didn’t yield much vegetable juice or potlikker to enjoy with cornbread. So, I asked my husband to pick up some collards at the farm stand in Lathemtown, GA. He came home with two bunches so big they filled the kitchen sink and then some. These collards were the real thing – white-veined, wide green leathery leaves – the kind of collards that require long cooking.

Long cooking also produces the vegetable juices, the potlikker, that is both delicious and fortifying on a damp, winter day.

If you are new to cooking collards, I’ll share a few tips: first, wash the big leaves well being sure to remove all grit; second, cut out the vein and remove the tough stems and discard both; chop or tear the leaves into bite-size pieces; and finally, drain completely in a colander while you bring the seasoned cooking water to a boil.

The traditional recipe for collards calls for adding a little salted or smoked pork or a ham bone for seasoning. I’ve been experimenting with making vegetarian versions of some of the classic smothered vegetable dishes. I like this “veg” adaptation of collards and potlikker. Hope you do, too.

Collards With Potlikker, A Southern classic adapted for vegetarians
Home kitchen-tested recipe is by Tommy C. Simmons.
Serves 8 to 10.

1 bunch collards, cleaned, stems & veins removed, and chopped into bite-size pieces
8 cups water
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper
2 tsps. Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blends – Vegetable Magic (a dry seasoning blend containing onions, garlic, salt and spices)
8 Medjool dates (whole dates are fine)
Baked cornbread (use your favorite recipe)

  1. Prep collards and place in colander to drain thoroughly.
  2. Put water in a large pot that has a cover. Stir in black pepper, red pepper, and Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Vegetable Magic seasoning. Bring to a boil.
  3. When seasoned water is boiling, add collards to the pot. Lower temperature to simmer. Drop dates into the pot and stir to distribute evenly through collards.
  4. Cover and cook over low heat for 3 or 4 hours or until collard greens are tender. Check occasionally to stir and make certain the collards aren’t sticking to the edges of the pot.
  5. When collards are ready, spoon individual servings into soup bowls, being sure to scoop up some of the liquid (the potlikker) into the bowl. Crumble warm cornbread over top and serve.

Testing note: If you use whole Medjool dates be careful you do not scoop up a date seed with the potlikker. The dates kind of disintegrate during cooking, but if you find a whole one, remove the seed and serve with the collards. The dates impart a sweet earthy flavor to the potlikker, which I think is quite nice.

Posted November 14, 2014

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