This is a very simple dish – in fact it’s so simple that I wasn’t sure whether to put it up on the blog. BUT it is a great recipe to use any of the tougher, darker greens such as collard greens, leftover kohlrabi leaves, that should never be tossed out since they are containing more vitamins than the actual bulb, broccoli leaves or kale. I quite like to ‘challenge’ myself to eat leafy greens with every meal of the day: in a green smoothie, as a side salad or – as in this case – in an easy to prepare lunch or mid-week dinner. Why? Because green leaves – and especially the darker varieties such as the ones from the brassica family like collard greens and kale – are among the most nutrient-dense foods to be found on the planet. They contain a very high amount of Vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant and might therefore help to prevent cancer and aging, vitamin C and especially K, that is important for bone formation. Vitamin A and K belong to the fat-soluble vitamins, so in order to make them available for the body, leafy greens should be eaten with some fat. Simply add a little butter to your wilted greens or add some avocado to your green smoothie. Dark leafy greens also contain quite a lot of calcium, iron and manganese, which plays an important role for healthy nerves, a healthy immune system and blood sugar regulation. They are also said to help cardiovascular support and to have cholesterol lowering abilities (for more details see here).
Unfortunately, while kale is a very traditional winter vegetable in northern Germany, it is not available the whole year round. So I was very happy to discover collard greens on my local market instead! They aren’t very common in Germany, but luckily I stumbled upon a recipe in Sally Butcher’s gorgeous book Veggistan, which inspired this little recipe. Next to roasted cauliflower and chickpeas, I find nothing else so comforting and grounding than the combination of aubergine, tomatoes and salty cheese, like in the Italian classic parmigiana di melanzane. Now you’ll understand why I fell in love with this beautiful summer dish that is perfect for the slightly cooler nights in between.
Just before we start, a little note on spices: I am not a big fan of most kitchen devices, such as bread slicing machines or egg cookers…but: since for me spices (and herbs) are the essentials in my kitchen, I do think a mortar & pestle as well as a grater are very handy. Freshly roasted and then ground spices taste soooo much better! Believe me. Plus, I just had a look on something on the supermarket shelf that was called ‘nutmeg seasoning’. The first ingredient on the list was not – surprise – ground nutmeg, but wheat bran. Possibly to make it taste like something they also added flavourings, plant oil and colourings. Um…I’ll rather grate my own nutmeg, thank you.
Collard greens with chickpeas & aubergine
(Serves one hungry person or two more moderate ones)
8-10 leaves of collard greens (substitute with kohlrabi or broccoli leaves or kale)
1 large aubergine
200g cooked chickpeas
50g Feta cheese
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. hot paprika
a generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and sea salt
generous knob of coconut oil or ghee
some leaves of parsley or mint to serve (optional)
I use to cook chickpeas in bulk and freeze a part, so I’ve got them ready at hand for quick recipes like this one. If you are using dried ones, remember to soak them for at least 12 hours to help break down the phytic acids and ease digestion (see here how to prepare pulses).
Chop the collard greens into about 2cm thick slices. Quarter and slice the aubergine, dice the tomatoes and the feta. Finely chop the onion and the garlic. Add coconut oil or ghee to a pan and sauté the onions on medium heat, then add the aubergine and about 2 minutes later the collard greens, garlic and spices. After about 3-5 minutes, the greens should be wilted but not overcooked. Add the chickpeas and tomatoes, cover pan with a lid and let simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until you’ve got a nice sauce from the tomatoes (add some water in case it to dry). Just before serving stir in the feta crumbs. Sprinkle with parsley or mint leaves and enjoy!