It used to be that whenever I found life becoming overwhelming, I would seek out comfort food. My spirit craved that euphoric boost from carbohydrate-laden foods that would help me to forget, just for a little while, the stress of the day.
I am not alone in this. Food or the preparation of it has always been my family’s way of coping just as much during times of stress as in times of celebration. It just happens that some of the most comforting or celebratory foods tend to be high in simple carbs.
Of course, the stress eating eventually caught up to me, forcing me to change my ways or risk serious health issues. With effort and determination, I revamped my routine eating choices. My everyday meals became healthier, with lean protein and vegetable-laden choices as my norm, with the occasional indulgence in the form of weekend cooking projects for my recipe blog.
Unfortunately, the circumstances of the last two years brought some of the old bad habits to the fore. But, new year, new outlook, right? Time to refocus.
Despite some of the more decadent recipes I share, today’s collard greens recipe is more typical of my daily food choices when eating and feeling my best. For my everyday meals, nearly 70 percent of my diet is dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like collard and mustard greens, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, spinach, chard, cauliflower and broccoli. I round that out with lean meat, legumes, sprouted tofu, healthy fats, berries and healthy whole grains.
Collard greens are my favorite dark leafy green. They’re also a vegetable that my physician explicitly encourages me to eat every week because they’re a good source of calcium. We’re lucky in California to have collards available year-round. However, they are in particular abundance now through May.
As for cooking them, sometimes I like a long, slow braise, transforming them into a silky, smooth bite. Other times, I prefer a quick stir-fry, which helps them retain more nutrients and a bit of crunch. This recipe falls somewhere between the two techniques, starting with a saute and simmering for a bit while you make the eggs (or longer, if you prefer, just add ⅓ to ½ cup water, so it doesn’t dry out).
I love using cilantro here, but if you’re not a fan, feel free to substitute it with fresh flat-leaf parsley or fresh mint.
The egg is optional, but adding it makes it feel like a complete entree. Plus, the yolk creates a lovely sauce.
I usually keep this vegetarian, but if I have leftover cooked chicken hanging out in the fridge, it sometimes makes its way into the dish.
Cilantro & Tomato Simmered Collard Greens with Sunny-Side-Up Egg
This is a great basic recipe that I eat as an entree. Feel free to swap in kale or mustard greens (leaves only, remove the fibrous stem) or chard (keep the tender stem) for the collard greens, and chicken or ground turkey for the beans.
Makes 4 servings
1 bunch collard greens (about 4 to 5 cups once chopped)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
½ large onion, sliced with the grain in half moons
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
⅓ cup diced mild green chiles (I like Ortega brand) or diced pickled jalapeño, if you like spicy food
15 ounce can stewed or diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I prefer the concentrate in a tube, like Cento brand)
15 ounce can cannellini beans, or your favorite white bean, drained and rinsed well
1 bunch cilantro, thicker stems removed, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
4 large eggs (organic free-range, if possible)
Cut off bottom third of the collard green stem and discard. Finely chop the remainder of the stem. Slice collard leaf into thirds lengthwise, stack, then chop into 1-inch pieces; place in a large bowl. Continue with remaining leaves. Fill the bowl with water to cover. Swish water to rinse greens. Set aside to soak and allow dirt to settle to the bottom of the bowl.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large saute pan and place on medium-low heat. When oil is shimmering — but not smoking — add onions and saute until translucent. Add garlic, frequently stirring to keep from burning. Cook for 1 minute, then add the green chiles. Cook 1 minute longer, stirring often.
Disturbing the water as little as possible, transfer the collard green leaves to a colander using tongs or your hands. The chopped stems will have sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Fish them out carefully and add them to the onion mixture in the pan. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the rest of the greens. Stir to wilt by half in volume. Add the stewed tomatoes (and their juice), breaking them up with your hands (no need to break up if using diced). Add the tomato paste; stir well to combine. Toss in the beans, cilantro, salt and pepper. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cover, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer while you make the eggs.
Place a small frying pan on medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully break an egg into a small cup or bowl, then slide the egg into the pan. Let the egg cook, undisturbed, for two full minutes, which allows the whites to run off the yolks, thus preventing a white film from covering the gorgeous yellow dome. After two minutes, carefully spoon the hot oil over the whites until they’ve set to desired doneness (I like mine just set). Carefully remove the egg to a plate and repeat with the remaining eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, divide the greens among four bowls and top each serving with an egg.
Note: Served with an egg, this recipe is under 600 calories per serving and is under 500 without it.
Arambula is the food section art director and designer. She blogs at confessionsofafoodie.me, where the original version of this article was published. Follow her on Instagram: @afotogirl. She can be reached at [email protected].