This soup introduced me to collards. Well, it didn't really introduce me to them - I mean, I grew up in Georgia - but this soup has led to my current crush with collard greens. You see, my early childhood memories of collards stem from my Nanny's kitchen. I remember a big, splattering pot that the grown ups oohed and aahed over. So much as I can put it together, I believe my Nanny used to simmer her collards for hours (or maybe it was days?) in a salty infusion of fatback. The end result? Limp, tired looking greens, that were not at all appetizing, to a kid anyway. I never, ever allowed any of those greens to reach my plate.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking on my Nanny's cooking (rest her loud and rowdy soul). She could cook up a feast out of practically nothing, and her kitchen was always filled with bits of this, and that to munch on. I had my first cup of coffee in her kitchen at the ripe young age of six. I vividly remember her fixing a pot of coffee for us kids, setting out the sugar bowl, then heading off to bed. You can imagine the caffeine-fueled mayhem that followed. There were mounds of sugar and loads of milk, and a giant, living room-sized fort was constructed that night. I can still recall the feeling of too much sugar on my tongue, and later, laying on the floor with my sister, and my cousin Billy, covered in heavy blankets.
My favorite food that Nanny served up was her cornbread. Hands down. There was always a cast iron full of cornbread on her kitchen table, and as a child I loved curling up on her sofa with a red solo cup full of soupy buttermilk and cornbread. These days, I count on getting my corn bread and buttermilk fix on special occasions at my Mom's, who still uses Nanny's old cast iron skillet.
Most, if not all, of my memories of Nanny are of her in her kitchen, sweating and tending to a hot stove top. Upon walking into the house, and directly into the kitchen, all children were immediately greeted with sweaty sugah (kisses, for the uninitiated) and were then ordered to "git outta my kitchen!"
Anyway, I digress. This post is supposed to be about our new favorite soup. So let's get on with it!
A day or two before new year's eve, feeling inspired by the promise of good luck in the new year, I started looking for collard recipes. I stumbled upon this one and knew that I had to give it a go. I made a few changes to the recipe, and the end result has completely affirmed my current crush on the collard.
This soup is nutty, creamy, tangy and so interesting to the palate that you're likely to eat more than your fair share.The collards hold up well under the heat of cooking and maintain a nice bite. The sweet potato adds the smallest bit of sweetness, and combined with almond butter, gives the soup a lovely creaminess.
It's nothing like what Nanny would have made, but after her initial shock of realizing there was no fatback anywhere to be found, I think she would have liked it.
Collard and Sweet Potato soup
one whole onion, diced
one large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
a large bunch of collard greens (7-8 leaves), de-stemmed and cut into bite size pieces
a couple cloves of garlic, minced
a couple (2-3) tablespoons of fresh, grated ginger
8 cups of stock - vegetable or chicken
(optional: 8-10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken cut into small chunks)
one cup fresh ground almond butter
one lime, wedged
salt & pepper to taste
Put it all together ::
To a large soup pot, add the stock, onion, garlic and sweet potato. Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Let simmer about 15-20 minutes then ladle some of the stock into a bowl with the almond butter. Stir it up well, until the almond butter is soupy, now add that back to the pot. Also add the ginger, collards, salt & pepper. Let cook for another 5-10 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a generous squeeze of lime over each serving.
I'd call this 4-6 servings. It easily fed us two adults, plus a toddler for two days. The second day I added brown rice to each bowl to stretch it out.
We've eaten this soup twice in the last two weeks, and I can't get enough of it. Turns out my littlest nursling isn't too fond of collard-infused Mama's milk. Looks like my love affair with my new favorite green will be on hold until L's digestion can keep up with my cravings. (Sigh.) I suppose I'll be subbing in chard for collards until then.
But you can bet we'll be planting collards in our 2013 garden.
Happy and healthy eating to you and yours!