A savory custard envelopes seasonal vegetables to make a simple but satisfying vegetarian meal. (It would also welcome a few cubes of smoked ham if you’re so inclined.) Like quiche filling without the crust, this is a riff on one of my standbys, extended by adding corn and red pepper to the collard leaves and stems. I posted a cheesy and collards-only version of this during last winter’s Dark Days challenge.
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. The addition of corn, red pepper and seasonal herbs makes this quite different – lighter and more festive – than the winter version. 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.
Timbale of Collard Greens, Red Pepper and Corn
1 bunch of collard greens (8+ leaves)
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter
½ red pepper, diced
Kernels cut from 1 ear of corn
Salt and pepper
½ c milk
¼ heavy cream
Herbs such as basil or parsley
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, corn and red pepper, 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 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 and herbs. Stir in the cooled collards, corn and pepper mixture and pour into the prepared baking dish. Place the dish in the roasting pan and add boiling water to come up 1-1½ 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.