Cutting the collards into thin strips to help them get tender and pick up more flavor from the broth. Check out the Notes at the bottom for more details on the recipe, including how it differs from Ethiopian gomen, and where to get the spices.
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon nigella seeds
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 lb yellow onions, minced (about 2 medium onions)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, stem removed, minced (see notes)
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 pounds collard greens
1 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt (or half this amount if using table salt)
3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1. Remove the stems from the collards and cut them crosswise into thin chiffonade strips, no more than 1/4 inch wide. Wash them in a large bowl of water (changing water a couple times if needed, depending on how dirty they are). When finished, let the collards stay in the bowl of water until you’re ready to cook them.
2. Warm the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. As the foam begins to subside, add the cardamom, fenugreek and nigella, and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the oil and increase heat to medium-high. Stir in the onions and saute them for about 8-10 minutes, until soft.
3. Add the garlic, chiles and ginger and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to keep everything from burning. Transfer the collards from their water bath to the pot by handfuls. As you do this, briefly let the water from each handful fall back into the bowl, and then toss the collards into the pot along with whatever water still clings to them. Stir to combine after every couple of handfuls. Add the salt and 2 cups of water (see notes). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the collards are tender, about 25-35 minutes. Taste and add another pinch of salt if needed. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and serve.
I created this recipe from a similar recipe on Saveur, which I had originally adapted for one of my summer camp sessions this year. The camp was called: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Globe? In it, we made chicken dishes from around the world, including Doro Wat, which is a famous Ethiopian chicken stew. I grabbed the Saveur recipe for us to make as a side dish in camp, because it was called “Gomen” (a traditional Ethiopian recipe) on their website. The recipe was great, and I wanted to share it here.
However, as I did a little more investigating, I became less and less comfortable calling it Gomen (and eventually decided to make several other changes). According to my Ethiopian friends, Gomen is traditionally vegan, made with oil and no butter. (There is a delicious traditional spiced butter used in Ethiopian cooking called Niter Kibbeh, which is what the Saveur recipe is trying to approximate. It just doesn’t belong in Gomen, apparently!) Also, many Gomen recipes start with onions and spices in a dry pan, then add the oil later. Some also include berbere (a traditional Ethiopian spice blend), while others don’t.
So in the end, I’ve created this recipe to just be a super-tasty collards recipe that actually works great with a lot of different cuisines. I think it still works great with Ethiopian food, as well as Moroccan and other African cuisines, or Indian food. It would also be amazing with a nice fried chicken dinner, or fried catfish with blackeyed peas. It would be great alongside a nice steak, or a pork chop, or a chicken breast. And if you have any leftovers, you could probably use them in a grain bowl, or as an exotic pizza topping, maybe with a little feta cheese.
But you may not have any leftovers, because this recipe is TASTY! It’s got lots of flavor from the combination of spices, ginger and garlic, with a little zing from the chile, and a nice fresh brightness from the lemon juice. It’s seriously good.
And this is coming from a gal who has never liked collard greens. Growing up, I only remember eating them under duress, when forced to take a couple of bites at Piccadilly Cafeteria or a relative’s house. I remember them being Army-green, bad-tasting, and drowning in too much watery broth that was even worse than the greens themselves. The few times I’ve tried them as an adult have been at fried chicken-type restaurants, where the chicken was clearly the star and the collards were an unfortunate afterthought.
But here, I LOVE the combination of butter with nigella, cardamom and fenugreek, so I’ve kept that from the original Saveur recipe. I’ve called for a serrano chile because that’s what I had on hand, but you could make this with any medium-hot fresh chile, such as a jalapeno, or a Thai “birdseye” chile if that’s what you have. (And if you don’t have any fresh chiles on hand, a little of Aleppo pepper or other red pepper would be great as a substitute.)
The original recipe called for finishing the dish with vinegar, but I prefer citrusy lemon juice here. Don’t skip it - It brightens the whole thing up and brings everything else into balance, without calling attention to itself. YUM.
The seeds of the nigella sativa plant. Used whole or ground. Mild, herb-y flavor. Used in ground seeds of the fenugreek plant. Used in African, Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Use as a topping on breads, baked goods, roasted potatoes.
1/2 cup-sized jar.
Originally from Aleppo, Syria, this pepper is now being grown in neighboring Turkey. Mildly spicy, it’s like a cross between ancho chile and red bell peppers. Addictively good on veggies of all kinds, as well as grilled meats, fish and more.
1/2 cup-sized jar.
Adapted from Saveur.