Greens That Would Make Popeye Jealous

ethiopian-collardsHere’s something you might not know: Ethiopia’s biggest export is agricultural products. Agriculture has always played a key role in Ethiopia, especially before misguided policies resulted in stripped-out soils, lowered water tables, and poorer crop yields. (Policies like the ones that forced farmers to switch from native, non-thirsty plants – i.e., drought-resistant crops – to plants that require much more water than the terrain can supply. That’s a sure-fire way to burn through your natural resources and leave you worse off than when you started. Unfortunately, Ethiopia is among many developing nations that have been faced with this scenario.)

Because Ethiopia has such a rich agricultural past, its cuisine is also incredibly flavorful. There’s no doubt that Indian cooks know what they’re doing when it comes to lentils, but something about the way Ethiopians prepare their lentil dishes makes my tongue tingle even more. Plus, their spice blends are exotically alluring, they do amazing things with hearty greens, and I love the fact that you’re more likely to dine on lamb (or goat) than beef. And then there’s their injera bread, which is traditionally made by fermenting water mixed with teff flour for a few days and then cooking the batter into tender flatbreads.

I recently had a delicious greens-based dish at an Ethiopian restaurant and decided to try to replicate it at home. The result was a little bit different but equally good. And the ingredients are so simple! Just be sure you have ghee – that provides an incredibly rich, buttery flavor that you just can’t get any other way. (Whole Foods, health-oriented stores, and many ethnic stores sell ghee, or you can make it yourself: just look up a recipe for clarified butter. It’s the same thing.) Butter will do in a pinch, though, if you don’t have ghee on hand.

Ethiopian Collards & Cabbage
Makes 4 hearty servings.

1 bunch collard greens, chopped
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
Ghee (Purity Farms ghee is my favorite) or butter in a pinch (in which case be sure to get full-flavored butter like Kerrygold – i.e., the kind that comes from cows that eat grass)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 T. tomato paste
At least 1 T. Berbere spice blend (see recipe on linked page)
1 T. apple cider vinegar

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add collards and cabbage, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Melt at least a tablespoon of ghee (I used 2) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and sautée for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until onions are turning slightly brown on the edges. Add drained collards and cabbage, tomato paste, spice blend, and vinegar. Stir well.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir it every 3 or 4 minutes to make sure everything cooks evenly. Taste it about halfway through and see if you want to add any more tomato paste, spice blend, or vinegar. I found that there was plenty of salt in the paste and spice blend, but feel free to add a dash of sea salt if you’d like.


Courtesy of Cultured Cook.

You may also like:

Healthy Greens & Your Diet

Green Superfoods

Ladies, You Better Eat Your Greens

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan LLC

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