Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Simplicity at its Healthiest


Need a break from heavy holiday foods? I have a great recipe for you with collard greens. Now, maybe you all don't love collard greens. That's because you haven't tried them this way.

Being from New England, I didn't eat a lot of collards. In fact, I didn't eat any until I signed up for a food co-op last year and found myself getting collards on a regular basis. (Side note -- don't you like the word "collard"? Something about it sounds very distinguished and good.) So, I found myself scrambling to find recipes for new things like kale, collards, and kohlrabi. For this collard greens recipe with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and brown rice, I don't even remember how I came across it. I think I pulled it together from a few different sources. This 5 ingredient recipe is so simple and healthy that it's refreshing to make after Thanksgiving.

Some of you may be wondering, "but what about protein?" Well, let me tell you about protein. According to Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe (and other scientific studies as well), there is protein in a lot more than just meat, dairy, eggs, and tofu. Most of the plant foods we eat contain protein. It is true that we need to get complete protein, meaning that unless we get all 16 amino acids at some point in the day, our protein is incomplete. As long as you eat a variety of foods, there's a good chance that you're getting enough protein. Brown rice and collard greens are good sources of protein and they're complementary (meaning they supplement missing amino acids that the other does not have). Additionally, although meat has high protein in its make up, the amount of protein our body is able to use from meat is actually on the same level (or lower) as eggs, dairy, and even some grains.

In conclusion (as I write this research paper for you all), meat protein has its place in our diet (hopefully you choose local and sustainable), but it is not the holy grail of protein. It is a protein among many proteins. Frances Moore Lappe's overall message in her book Diet for a Small Planet is that the earth has enough resources to feed hungry people. The problem is that a lot of those resources go toward feeding livestock instead of directly feeding people. In poorer countries, only the wealthy can afford meat, while the poor starve because the grain is not made available to them. This is a simplified version of a worldwide hunger problem, but hopefully you see my point.

I encourage you to eat less meat. Not just that, but choose local, humanely raised meat that has quality in both taste and life. An animal that lived a quality life before being slaughtered is better for our earth, our palates, and our peace of mind. With that, I give you...collards.

Collard Greens
Serves 2-3 main dishes, or 4-6 sides

1 bunch collard greens
1 cup dry brown rice
1 large onion
8 sun-dried tomato halves in oil
2 tablespoons oil from sun-dried tomato jar, or olive oil

1) Combine rice and 2 cups water in rice cooker, or combine in pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 40 minutes.

2) Chop onion. Heat oil in large saucepan and add onions until slightly carmelized, about 10 minutes.

3) Chop sun-dried tomatoes and add to onions. Stir around for a minute.

4) Stem collard greens. Fold leaves over and chop into "ribbons." Chop again the other way, so you end up with roughly square pieces of collard greens. Add to onion mixture and stir around to coat lightly with oil. Cover and let soften for about 5 minutes. Collards are done when they're slightly tender but not mushy.

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