Something about collard greens just sounds homey … maybe that’s because I associate it with the South? Apparently, the southern tradition of eating collard greens every New Year’s Eve goes something like this: each bite of greens you eat is worth $1,000 in the upcoming year (Little Rock). You know what this means? I was very poor in “collard green dollars” for many years, because I never had collard greens growing up. My family is of Middle Eastern origin, so we cooked a lot of spinach, molokhia (a favorite in my household to this day), cabbage, Swiss chard, and many other leafy greens that I’m probably forgetting … but never collards. Actually, we only adopted kale into our fridge only a few years ago — because we couldn’t figure out how to tame the curly leaves without wilting them into unappetizing mush. So we now eat kale mostly raw, usually in salads with toasted almonds and dried fruit. We tried doing the same with collard greens, but the taste of the greens wasn’t particularly distinct in salad, so I decided to find another way to make them. First, I was doing a vegan fast for Lent, so I was limited to beans and veggies. I came up with this tasty combination of black eyed peas, sauteed mushrooms, and collard greens stewed in a spiced tomato-garlic sauce, which was pretty good.
After Easter, I can’t bear to do anything vegan and almost find excuses to add ghee to everything and anything, so I had to find another recipe to use up the organic collard greens I found on sale at my local health food store. Sauteed greens are always a nice and simple choice for a side, but I wanted to make the collards shine. I wanted to elicit the reaction of: “ooh, this is great … what kind of greens are in here?” Yeah, yeah, I know the drill: add bacon. I am a lover of pastured bacon like no other, but I thought that the collard greens-bacon combination is a little tired (p.s. I also didn’t have bacon in the house .. hah). So, I decided on making a collard greens quiche! And not any regular ‘ol glutenous pie, mind you. I’m on a record gluten-free streak that I’m not planning to break anytime soon, so it had to be a grain-free quiche crust for me.
Don’t want to eat your greens? Consider quiche!
Let me tell you a little thing about gluten-free baking: I don’t like to do it. The results are (almost) always unpredictable and I don’t have the patience to find obscure ingredients like xanthan gum (what the heck is that anyway?). I decided to use my first successful grain-free petit fours experience as a reference, and quickly came to the conclusion that almond flour was going to be the main ingredient in the pie crust. It’s as easy as mixing the almond flour, fat (I used ghee), an egg, a pinch of salt and nutmeg, and pulsing in a food processor until all are well incorporated and a dough has formed. Then, you can press it down into a baking dish and pop in the oven for 10 minutes or so. Super easy.
For the filling, I thought I’d half-cook the collard greens to soften them up a bit, and to mix in the flavors of caramelized onions and garlic, before baking. Nothing says savory quiche like ricotta cheese, so a layer of that just ‘makes sense’ to go on top of the crust (I wish I had that on hand when making this!). Then, the lightly spiced greens, mixed in with an egg for binding purposes, goes on top, and then some shredded hard cheese is crumbled on top for a quiche effect. Pop in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, and you have a grain-free quiche that uses up an obscure leafy green vegetable and makes it tasty too! Let me tell you something: last time I just sauteed collards as a side, I didn’t get the same reaction from family members as when I served it in a quiche. Something about the French-inspired savory pie just attracts even the most staunch greens-hater out there. Try it!
A little bit about collard greens …
Collards are a member of the Brassica family of leafy greens, which include a wide variety of edible plants that are super-good-for-you like cabbage, broccoli, mustard greens and kale. They’re native to the South (in the U.S.) and apparently taste better when they’re harvested after a bit of a chilly winter and spring: “Even though collard greens are more heat tolerant than other cabbage relatives, the vegetable tastes better after chilly weather arrives. A bit of frost makes the leaves taste sweeter” (Vegetable Gardening). So that means their peak season is between January and April for most places in the US.
According to this article from Serious Eats, picking collards comes down to selecting the greenest and sturdiest of the bunch: “avoid yellow, torn, and pitted leaves and opt for crisp, plump, deep green bunches. Due to a high water content, collards shrink down when cooked, so plan on two large bunches to serve four people.” If organically grown, you need only rinse them under running water to take off any clinging dirt. And to cook them, just chop and saute. Why eat them in the first place? Well, they’re yummy when paired with enough healthy fat. They also pair really well with beans, meats or dairy. And they’re really healthy, boasting a good amount of Vitamins K, C and A, folate, and minerals like calcium and zinc. So, if you’re looking to change up your leafy greens routine, consider making collards … in a quiche!
Collard Greens Quiche with Grain-Free Crust
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Keywords: bake saute entree side gluten-free low-carb soy-free sugar-free vegetarian collard greens almond flour French spring winter
For the grain-free pie crust:
For the collard greens filling:
- 1/2 bunch organic collard greens (about 6 large leaves)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grass-fed ghee
- 1/4 teaspoon unrefined salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground organic ginger
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 pastured or organic egg
- 1 cup grass-fed ricotta cheese (use whole milk ricotta, if possible)
- 2-4 tablespoons shredded Gruyère or Dubliner cheese (or any hard grass-fed cheese you have on hand)
- dash freshly ground black pepper
(1) Preheat oven and prepare the grain-free crust. Preheat oven to 350F. Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the 2 cups of almond flour, 1 lightly beaten egg, 2 teaspoons ghee, salt and nutmeg, and blend until a dough forms. Taste a tiny bit to adjust seasoning to your liking.
(2) Add dough to an 10-inch baking pan and bake. Press down to even out the crust, making sure it covers the bottom and curves upwards on the corners and sides. Bake on 350F for 10 minutes until crust starts to turn a very light golden color.
(3) Saute the collard greens, onion and garlic. Chop one onion, and saute in ghee for a few minutes till beginning to caramelize. Chop collard greens (I include the stems, but it’s up to you), and add to pot, stirring for a couple of minutes. In a separate small pan, peel 4-5 garlic cloves, and saute in ghee till lightly golden. Then, add garlic to collard greens and onion mixture. Stir and turn off heat.
(4) Add spices and egg. Add salt, ground ginger and ground nutmeg to collard greens mixture. Taste to adjust seasoning. Then, beat one egg, and mix well into collard greens.
(5) Add cheese and bake. Add a layer of ricotta cheese on the set crust. Then, pour the collard greens mixture on top of the ricotta cheese, and even out. Add hard cheese on top (I used Dubliner), and put in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. Add a dash of freshly ground black pepper and serve warm.