Despite the ins and outs of food fashion, greens themselves never go out of style. Greens are timeless, and, to many, a staple food. Collards in particular have been on the menu around here quite a bit lately. With this recipe I wanted to add a toothsome, satisfying addition to the greens, and dried shiitake fit that bill exactly. In the dried form, shiitake mushrooms become something very different compared to fresh. Dried shiitake have a deeper flavor and a dense, meaty texture that intensifies the umami quality found in this mushroom. When soaked overnight, the mushrooms soften and provide an amazing broth in which to cook the greens in the form of the soaking liquid. Bonus.
You may find dried shiitake at your everyday grocer, but it is wise to check out Asian markets for lower price and greater quantity. They store in an airtight container for quite a long time...that is if you can resist using them for very long. Mine seem to disappear quite quickly.
Prep is key here, so get all your ingredients ready for the pot before hand. The greens I used ranged from the size of my hand (just measuring the leaf) to 12 inches, so I recommend using anywhere from 10 to 20 leaves with their stems depending on the size of the leaves. Maybe 15 if your leaves vary widely. And yes, don't leave out the stems! The cooker is going to transform them into tender bites along with the leaves.
I like to simply rip the leaves right off the stems with my hand, fast and easy. Cut them away if you prefer. Bias cut the stems as thin as possible, about 1/4 inch thick or less, and keep them separate from the leaves. The leaves are rough chopped about 2 inches wide.
After the shiitakes soak overnight, you have the miraculous soaking liquid. Make sure to squeeze the remaining liquid out of them before prepping to get every last drop. Simply scrub the ginger. I never bother to peel it at all. When thinly sliced, the skins make little difference, and you preserve nutrients. I used an unrefined, toasted peanut oil for a nice compliment. Unrefined peanut oil adds a lot of flavor to stir fries, fried rice, beans, and more.
Ah, my little pressure cooker! I have lugged it around to clients and demonstrations. It is a Kuhn Rikon 3.5 quart, one of the smallest you can get. This is good for serving 3 to 6 people, depending on the dish you are making. Mine is beat up, has lost it's bottom handle, and takes a little bit of voodoo to get a seal, but I know it's peculiarities so I am trying to get a few more years out of this old girl! For those not familiar, take heart, pressure cookers are easier to use than you might think.
The initial saute of ginger, onion and the stems gives the ginger and onion time to mingle with the peanut oil, and softens the stems just a little before they get pressure cooked. It's amazing that the greens become tender and dreamy in only 7 minutes at 15 psi. The wonders of the pressure cooker never cease.
Finished collards with shiitake and ginger served here with the pot liquor and molasses black eyed peas.
Shiitake Ginger Collards
- 10 dried shiitake, soaked for 8 hours in water to cover and squeezed of soaking liquid
- reserved shiitake soaking liquid
- 10-20 collard green leaves with stalks, depending on size
- 1.5 inches fresh ginger, julienne
- 1/4 large onion cut to 1/4 inch slices
- 3 tbsp unrefined peanut oil
- 3 tbsp shoyu, tamari or any naturally brewed soy sauce
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
*Note: This recipe requires soaking the shiitake for 8 hours, so plan ahead. I usually soak the mushrooms overnight or in the morning to cook that evening. Don't worry if they soak a few hours longer, just make sure they soak 8 hours.
Begin by bringing 2 C water to a boil. Rinse the shiitake mushrooms in cold water and place them in a bowl just big enough to hold the mushrooms. Pour the hot water over the mushrooms until you have enough to completely cover them. They will float so place a small plate or plastic wrap over the bowl to keep the mushrooms submerged as much as possible. Place the mushrooms in the refrigerator over night or for 8 hours, turning them over once if you can. After soaking, squeeze the water out of the mushrooms and back into the soaking liquid. Reserve the soaking liquid. Slice the mushrooms to about 1/3 inch thickness. Set aside.
Wash and towel dry the collards. Tear the leaves from the stems or cut the stems out. Remove the bottom 1 inch of the stems and cut them on the bias to 1/8 or 1/4inch thickness and keep them separate from the greens. Rough chop the greens in 2 inch pieces. Scrub the ginger, bias cut to 1/8th inch and julienne. Prepare the onions in 1/4 inch slices to any desired length.
Bring the pot of your pressure cooker to medium-high heat and add the peanut oil, collard stems, ginger and onions. Saute for 5 minutes. This will give the stems a head start on softening and help the ginger infuse the oil. Measure the soaking liquid and add water if needed to give 1.5 C liquid. Add this soaking liquid mixture, sliced shiitake, soy sauce, maple and chopped greens to the pot. With a large spoon, turn the contents over to mix lightly. Add the lid and bring the cooker to 15 psi and cook for 7 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool on its own. This takes about 8 to 10 additional minutes. Inside you will find savory, fork tender greens with rich, meaty shiitake and assertive ginger heat. Serve with a couple spoons of the pot liquor. Enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6
*This recipe can cooked similarly in a large pot or pan, simmering for an hour or more. You will want to check the liquid and add more if necessary over the cooking period.