The collards of spring are a buttery affair. Sweet and tender, they make a delicious pairing with garlic scapes and small spring onions, an infant version of a fall classic. Scapes, which are the stems of hardneck garlic, are plentiful now (over 200 in my garden alone!) and need to be harvested so that the plant’s energy will be directed to plump the bulbs. I first made this as a side dish and then served it with cooked dried beans (Rancho Gordo beauties) and whole wheat pasta for a complete meal. I made the dish with prosciutto (our local gourmet deli sells the ends in chunks, which is very convenient) but you could leave that out to make it vegetarian.
For this recipe, I used 1 bunch of collards (10-12 leaves), 3 garlic scapes, 2 spring onions, and an ounce of prosciutto. The collard leaves were cut crosswise into ½-inch ribbons and the other ingredients were cut into ½-inch dice.
I always use collard stems, which cook until tender in a way that only really young kale stems will do. Just slice the collard leaves from the stems, slice the leaves into ribbons and but the stems crosswise. The stems take longer to cook than the leaves, so I start them with the onions and garlic in most dishes. Here, as I said above, I chopped the stems into ¼-inch lengths and did the same with the scapes, onion and prosciutto. Placed in a wide pan slicked generously with olive oil, I let them cook over medium heat for a minute and then turned down the heat, covered the pan, and let the mixture steam-cook until barely crisp tender. This took under 5 minutes. I then added the collard leaf ribbons, covered the pan, and let the mixture cook slowly until everything is tender, about another 5 minutes. Add salt and liquid red pepper to taste. A little vinegar is also traditional.
For those who find long-cooked collards distasteful, this is a transformative tasting experience. I am fortunate to have access to such fresh and young produce, but even with more mature ingredients, this is a winner of a dinner.