You know what the most delightful food in the whole world is? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not chocolate. It’s not even dessert.
That’s right. It’s collard greens.
I know what you’re thinking. You think I’ve gone mad with the heat and have forgotten what is best in life. (To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. Also, collard greens. Conan will never keep up his strength without proper nutrients.)
Why are greens so amazing? Well, first of all they taste fresh and delightful. Second, you can eat them when you’re sick. Chocolate loses all appeal when I’m not feeling well, but something simple and savory does the trick every time. Third, they contribute to completely guilt-free comfort food. Also, OM NOM NOM GREENS. Okay, maybe the heat is getting to me a little bit. But you should try this. It’s yummy.
Ingredients (serves two as a side dish or one as a meal. Easily doubled/quadrupled/whatever)
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry polenta
4-6 leaves collard greens
1 T butter (optional)
1/2 cup grated parmesan, divided
Pour the water into a pot and bring to a boil. Pour the polenta over it and bring the water down to a simmer. Leave it alone for now. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to stir polenta constantly, just give it a quick stir every five minutes or so.
Wash the collard greens thoroughly. Cut out the big rib, especially if it’s white. White ribs are tough and yuck. Roll the leaves into a cylinder, and cut the cylinder into narrow (1/4 inch) strips. This is called chiffonade. It’s not hard.
Keep stirring the polenta every few minutes (I just stood in the kitchen with a book. Makes it go faster.) until the polenta is very thick. if you eat polenta or grits, you’ll know when it’s done. If you don’t, what you’re looking for is the point where “liquid” or “muddy” no longer describe the texture, and “sticky” or “wet cement” do.
At this point, stir in the greens a handful at a time. It looks like you have a much greater volume of greens than polenta, but they stir in nicely. I used five big leaves, and sort of wanted more.
Turn the oven on to 450°F. Continue stirring on the stove 3-5 more minutes, to properly cook the greens and let their flavor infuse the polenta. Stir in half of the parmesan and the butter, if using, as well.
You could just eat it now, but I like polenta best baked. So scoop it into a small cast iron pan, or another oven-safe dish, and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Don’t be shy with the cheese, either. This stuff is great.
Pop the pan in the oven for 5-7 minutes, just long enough for the cheese and top layer of polenta to turn a rich golden color but not long enough to leave any crispy burned greens.
Serve hot in wedges with crudités or salad. Or eat it all on its own at the end of a long day. Nothing quite beats it.