NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
I love collard greens. They may be my favorite green food – well, second to mint chocolate chip ice cream, at least. They’ve been in use for at least 2,000 years; the ancient Greeks cultivated them along with kale.
I typically simmer my collard greens with some sort of smoked pork (usually bacon or smoked ham hocks), chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar, and it’s always delicious, although it can get a little boring. So a while back I consulted my buddy, the internet, to find another use for collard greens. During my search, I kept coming across the word Sukuma Wiki, the Swahili name for collard greens. Sukuma Wiki literally translates to “push/stretch the week” – collard greens are available year-round in East Africa, and are used to stretch meals out to last all week.
In the culinary world, Sukuma Wiki is a common name for a Kenyan dish of braised collard greens, usually prepared with ground meat, tomatoes, and onions. Turns out that this dish is dead easy to make, both in terms of time/preparation and ingredients. I was able to whip it up using stuff already in my pantry, and it’s always nice to find another use for ground beef. But the best part about this dish is its taste: it’s absolutely delicious, and has just a hint of exoticness to make it remarkable. One thing that sets this dish apart is that the collard greens are simply wilted down, and so they retain a slightly crunchy texture that really complements the ground beef.
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp each sea salt, cumin, coriander
1/2 tsp each black pepper, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground fennel seeds, turmeric
1 lb ground beef
1 bunch collard greens (about 8 leaves), stems removed, sliced or chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp lemon juice
Be sure to prep everything before starting to cook; this is a relatively quick dish, so you want to have everything on hand when you need it.
Warm the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat for a minute, then add the onion. Sauté the onion until softened, about four minutes. Add the chopped garlic and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.
Add the ground beef and seasonings, and cook until mostly done, about six minutes, stirring frequently so the ground beef doesn’t clump.
This is the color you’re looking for – most of the pink has been cooked out.
Add the collard greens and tomatoes, and sauté until the collard greens are wilted, about four minutes. Stir everything around carefully as it cooks – be sure to do this step gently so you don’t mush up the tomatoes.
Add the lemon juice and season to taste by adding salt and pepper as needed, and serve immediately. This dish is typically served with a flatbread called Chapati, but we just enjoyed it on its own. Truth be told though, I bet these cauliflower tortillas from my buddy Joshua at Slim Palate would work perfectly.