Nik Sharma’s Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

A few days ago I woke up with a splitting headache and an achy kind of nausea. I say “woke up” loosely, because I laid in bed for several hours just trying to figure out what’s what. Even though it is July in the South, and plenty hot, and plenty humid, I knew what I needed. The answer? Hot, nourishing soup with plenty of collard greens, which happen to be the state vegetable of South Carolina.

You may be thinking, “You crazy woman. It’s 1000 degrees outside where you live and 900% humidity. A walk halfway ’round the block is enough to get you sweating. Why are you making hot soup?”

And reader, I must say: valid point…

However, the body needs what the body needs, and sometimes silver-green bunches of bitter collards and turmeric-coated chickpeas can work some of the profoundest miracles.

I leafed my way through the picture-rich Flavor Equation gluttonously, lingering over pages that contained ingredients I’d never heard of. If you need some magic injected into your culinary life, consider this beautiful book by Nik Sharma. He breaks down some of the science of what makes ingredients big players in the kitchen and throws in some really interesting recipes for adventurous eaters intent on culinary play.

I saw the picture of this chili-spiced soup and just knew it would cure me.

What’s not to love about stewed greens in bright tomato and tamarind, with spiced chili, turmeric, cinnamon, and black pepper seasoning two kinds of legumes?

I ate not one, but two bowls of this for early dinner and was back on track by 8.

Health Benefits of Collard Greens

These broad, leafy greens have more to offer than meets the eye. Here are some of the top nutritional benefits to eating collard greens regularly:

  1. Liver Detox: Collard greens are rich in glucosinolates, which cleanse cells of toxins and gradually purify the body over time.
  2. Vitamins and Minerals: Rich in vitamins A, C, K, and B-6 as well as iron, magnesium, and calcium, collard greens offer your body the building blocks to do everything from producing hemoglobin in your red blood cells, to boosting the immune system, to improving skin health.
  3. Fiber: High in both water content and fiber, collard greens are very beneficial to your gut in “keeping regular.” Fiber not only cleans out your lower intestine but also slows down your liver’s processing of sugars, lowering the chance that sugar will be converted to fat. Fiber also lowers cholesterol levels and may even have associations with bolstering mental health.

In South Carolina, it’s standard to purchase collard greens in giant bunches, too large to fit in the average grocery bag. Most folks cut the tough rib out of the center of the leaf, chop the greens into forkable chunks and stew them in a deliciously seasoned liquid. Here is a recipe for classic Southern Collard Greens from Grandbaby Cakes.

The Recipe

Collards aren’t all this dish has to offer. From the healing punch of warming spices to the healthy protein contributed by the chickpeas and lentils, this soup will have you going back for another bowl.

First, I prepped all of the ingredients. I thawed my homemade stock…diced the onion…soaked the red lentils…peeled and chopped the ginger and garlic…washed and cut the collards….etc. It was my day off and I had all day to make magical soup, as far as I was concerned. A mini “vacation,” if you will.

(If you are looking for other ways to use up your gorgeous red lentils, check out this recipe for dal from one of my previous posts!)

Once the ingredients were prepped, it became a matter of bringing out the best in all of them. Sauteeing the onions until translucent, just cooking through the ginger and garlic, caramelizing the tomato paste and blooming the spices, stewing the tomato and collards…then adding the beans and stock to simmer until everything married together.

Serve yourself a bowl, add a healthy amount of fresh herbs on top, and you’ve got yourself a wellness boost:

Bet you can’t eat just one bowl.

Nik Sharma's Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

Nik Sharma
This collard-packed soup is doubled down on legume-y goodness with both red lentils and chickpeas. With warming spices and brightness from fresh tomato and tamarind, this vegetable stew will leave you both refreshed and comforted!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course dinner, Main Course, vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Comfort Food, Intuitive
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric powder
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 7 oz collard greens, rinsed, midribs removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock, or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs tamarind paste
  • salt, to taste
  • chopped parsley, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, to taste

Instructions
 

  • First, rinse your lentils in a fine mesh colander and pick out any impurities. Cover lentils in a bowl with 1 cup of water and let soak for 30 minutes.
  • While the lentils are cooking, peel and dice the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomato and set aside. Remove the midribs from the rinsed collards and roughly chop.
  • Heat oil in the bottom of a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sautee for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add cinnamon stick, pepper, chili, and turmeric followed by the tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes.
  • Drop in the diced tomato and collard greens and stir until the leaves are bright green and begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Drain the soaked lentils and add to the pot along with chickpeas and stock.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Season to taste with salt.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped herbs and serve immediately.
Keyword are lentils and dal the same thing, chickpeas, collard greens, collard greens soup, crumbs, crumbs on crumbs, crumbsoncrumbs, flavor equation, intuitive cooking, intuitive eating, intuitive eats, nik sharma, red lentils, the flavor equation, vegan soup, vegan stew, vegetable soup, vegetable stew

One Pot Creamy Coconut Collards

Sometimes, you move across the country and have to coast on very limited funds until your first paycheck.

Sometimes, you have to shop at the grocery store with your brain instead of your heart (isn’t that a lucky thing, to be able to say “sometimes” about that?) and choose cheap and abundant over exoticism or quality.

Sometimes, this is a great challenge. Other times, it is a great challenge. Am I being clear?

So when I went to the grocery store wondering how I was going to pick up sustenance for the next month or so while my finances slowly regulate, I had to choose my purchases very carefully.

Already blessed with an abundance of spices, grains, flours, condiments, and dried beans, I chose several things very deliberately such as a can of full fat coconut milk, chicken thighs, and a laughably large bundle of fresh collard greens. (The leaves leapt out of the bag towards my elbow during the way to the car and would not fit in the vegetable drawer in the fridge when I got home, point blank.)

This recipe came together beautifully after a full day at work. Best of all, it all gets thrown into one pot.

I started by flavoring the broth I used to cook the rice.

big hunks of ginger, lemongrass, smashed garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes flavored this turkey broth, but any mild broth works great too

After this simmered gently for a few moments, in goes the rice, then chicken, coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili paste, and mirin.

if it bothers you to have large, inedible chunks of lemongrass in your rice, feel free to strain them out before adding rice and chicken to your hot broth. i find these chunks continue to season any leftovers you may have as they sit together in the fridge and make for an even better meal the next day.

In go chopped collards…

cover with a lid, stir, cover, and wait until chicken reads at least 155°F on a thermometer

One dirty pot later, is dinner!

just what i wanted after a long day

Creamy Coconut Collard Greens (A One Pot Dinner)

Coconut milk, rice, chicken thighs, and collards come together for this delicious one pot meal.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Healthy, Intuitive
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/4 cups chicken broth, or other mild broth
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lemongrass stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbs sweet chili jelly
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup jasmine white rice
  • 1 14 oz full-fat can of coconut milk
  • 2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinless
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 small bunch collard greens (or 1/2 of a large bunch)

Instructions
 

  • Combine broth, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, soy sauce, mirin, red pepper flakes, and sweet chili jelly in a large, heavy bottomed saucepot with a lid and stir. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the ginger and lemongrass release their odor and chili flakes begin to bleed color into the broth.
  • While the broth is developing flavor, salt both sides of the chicken thighs with a pinch or two of salt each. If desired, strain flavored broth using a collander into a large bowl to remove chunks of lemongrass and ginger, then pour broth back into the warm saucepot.
  • Add rice, chicken thighs, and coconut milk, taking care to scrape coconut fat in with the rest of the can. Stir to combine, then cover with a lid. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
  • Meanwhile, remove the stalks of the collard greens and roughly chop them into approximately 1" thick pieces. Add chopped collards and cover. Cook another 20 minutes or so, until rice is al dente and chicken thighs register at least 155°F on a thermometer. Serve immediately. Keeps well in the fridge for up to one week.

Southern Key Lime Pie

After wandering through an antiques store in Little Mountain, South Carolina, I managed to emerge with only three vintage cookbooks. This, truth be told, was nothing short of a miracle. As it turns out, there are a lot of antique cookbooks to be had here, which, as a newcomer, I found terribly hard to resist.

I leafed through the recipes hungrily, looking for different culinary influences in the ingredients which might have contributed in some way to southern cooking’s unique charm. I suspected to encounter a lot of butter and refined sugar–and it’s true, those ingredients were star players on many of the pages–but I was excited to see ingredients more on the “earthy” side, like turnips, greens, root vegetables, and grains.

Colonialist ingredients clearly do not stand on their own, in this cuisine: the more “rooted” ingredients add a lot of richness to a well-rounded palate, much fuller than the myopic view fast food chains would lead us to believe.

When I saw a tantalizingly simple recipe for key lime pie, I figured I’d best give it a shot. I’m trying to pinch my pennies right now, after all. The South is a pretty good place to do this; plus, freshly made key lime pie makes it easy to forget one is doing so.

here are most of the gathered ingredients (note: i did not end up using all of the limes)

This was a great excuse to break in my new food processor, besides…blitzing the sleeve of graham crackers was delightfully easy, and made perfectly uniform pieces.

pulverized graham crackers, salt, and quality butter baked for 7 minutes and smelled divine

This recipe was dead simple. Only a handful of ingredients, and just a few steps. The hardest part was waiting for the pie to chill…

I managed to let this simple beauty chill overnight, no small feat

Because you need whipped cream on a key lime pie, I added a few finishing touches, and…voila! Will definitely be eating this for breakfast until it’s gone…

Southern Key Lime Pie

This recipe based off of a vintage Southern Living cookbook, as simple as it is sweet!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 7 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 22 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Southern Cooking
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

Crust

  • 1 sleeve graham crackers
  • 6 Tbs butter melted
  • 1 pinch finely ground salt

Filling

  • 2 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Blitz graham crackers in a food processor or blender until they are uniform in texture and size. Add melted butter and salt and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  • Press graham cracker mixture into a 9-inch pie dish until it is evenly dispersed in a thin layer across the bottom and up the sides.
  • Bake for 7 minutes, or until the tops of the crust are golden brown and releasing a pleasant aroma. Cool at least 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, beat sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and freshly squeezed lime juice in a medium bowl with a whisk until combined. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Zest fresh lime peel evenly over the top of the custard mixture, and chill at least two hours.
  • Before serving, whip cream and powdered sugar in a deep bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Using either a piping bag or a spoon, place 12 dollops of cream around the edges of the surface of the pie in a circle, then one dollop for the middle. If desired, zest more lime peel over the top. Serve immediately.
Keyword classic, dessert, key lime, key lime pie, simple recipe, southern cooking, southern cuisine, southern food, whipped cream