This simple and satisfying supper features sturdy collard greens and stems suspended in a savory custard. The custardy mixture was surrounded by bright orange carrots and served with a salad of local escarole and dill. Unlike the long-stewed collard greens common to Southern cooking, this dish cooks collard stems with onions just until tender and then adds the greens, cut into ribbons. Cooked to an al dente consistency, the collards give the custard a lot of body and spunky flavor. Since this contains milk, cream and cheese, I cook the collards and onions in butter, which presented a new Dark Days Challenge: find a local source of organic butter or make my own. I did find a source about 60 miles away, but I am now committed to make my own butter from the excellent organic cream that’s available locally. Next time.
We eat primarily vegetarian suppers at least half the week, and this is one of our standbys. The collards and carrots came from our CSA. I harvested the collards myself during the final gleaning of the fields and have a few bunches that will last us for nearly another month. I saved the greens from the carrots and used them instead of parsley. I sometimes have added bits of smoked ham to the custard. You could serve sausage on the side but this is so rich that it isn’t necessary. The carrots and salad actually help cleanse the palate.
Since this timbale takes nearly 1½ hours to assemble and bake (1+ hour of baking and resting time) I usually make the collards in advance. The recipe came from Bert Greene’s cookbook Greene on Greens, which inspires me every time I read it, though I find that his food is too rich for today’s times so I usually simplify it, for example reversing the amount of cream and milk, cutting the butter by three-quarters, and omitting the bread crumbs. He suggests that this could also be made with chard.
Timbale of Collard Greens adapted from Bert Greene
1 bunch of collard greens (8+ leaves)
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
½ c milk
¼ heavy cream
½ c grated Swiss-type cheese (I used a nutty local toma)
Optional: 2/3 c fresh breadcrumbs
Optional: 2-3 tsp chopped fresh dill or a little grated nutmeg
Slice the stems of the collards from the leaves. Chop the stems into ½-inch pieces and the leaves cross-wise into ½-inch ribbons.
Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, cooking over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until they begin to look translucent. Add the collard stems and cook, covered until tender, about 10-15 minutes. (This will vary by the age of the collards. Mine were fresh and cooked in about 8 minutes.) Add the collard greens and continue to cook, covered for about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. (May be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and put a kettle of water on to boil. Butter the inside of a 2-quart baking or souflee dish. Set out a roasting pan large enough to hold the baking dish and water to come about halfway up the sides.
Lightly beat the eggs, and add the milk, cream, cheese, optional breadcrumbs and optional herbs/spices. Stir in the cooled collards mixture and pour into the prepared baking dish. Place the dish in the roasting pan and add boiling water to come up 1- 1/2 inches up the side. (It’s best to do this in the oven.) Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the mixture set for about 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.