I did my first, real-deal season-extending gardening this year. This means that as opposed to planting things in the spring, I actually planted them in October and protected them as they slowly grew through the winter. By the time spring rolled around, we had mature lettuce and leafy greens earlier in the year than we’ve ever had them before, which is great, in some ways, but has also started to weird me out a little. We tend to think of leafy things as tender, young, springy food, but the lettuce I am harvesting is eight months old. Kind of crazy, right?
It has been the wettest, coolest, cloudiest spring in memory, and while reasonably happy for the water, all of our growing plants are a little slower on the uptake than normal—so, weirdness aside, I’m happy for the early glut of greens. (I am also posting not-relevant photos of one of the rare sunny afternoons we’ve had to remind myself what the sunshine looks like.)
I’ve been writing about growing collard greens and eating them for almost as long as this site has existed, but always in cooked form. This raw collard salad takes its cue from the raw kale salads that have dominated public consciousness in the past few kale-crazy years: thick, hearty greens, sliced thinly or torn into small pieces, dressed aggressively with assertive flavors, and then massaged or left to break down a little.
Just like when I first tried those raw kale salads, I was a skeptic about this collard version; just like when I first tried those raw kale salads, I was wrong. Unlike the kale, however, collards have a smoother leaf, resulting in a mouthful that’s a little less textured and is a little less shout-y about the fact that you’re eating such a hearty, cabbage-family plant raw. Raw collards are a bit peppery and make a nice change-up from your normal greens, falling somewhere between a true slaw and a tender, young salad.
After being dressed and tossed with a gingery, nutty vinaigrette, the ribbons of collards transform from waxy and stiff into a glossy, relaxed tangle. The original Bon Appétit recipe that I adapted this from called for making a seed brittle out of sesame and pepitas; you should definitely try that if you have the time. But toasted sesame seeds alone, thrown on top, are good enough for a quicker version, sticking pleasantly to the dressed leaves and crunching nicely in contrast with the slick collards.
Gingery, seedy raw collard greens salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or a pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Kosher salt
- 3/4 to 1 pound collard greens, center stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
- Optional: Toasted sesame seeds
- For seed brittle, if making:
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
- In a bowl, whisk (or shake in a jar, or for a more emulsified dressing, blend with an immersion blender) the vinegar, ginger, Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon honey, and olive and sesame oils. Taste and season for salt, making it a bit saltier than you might otherwise like.
- If making seed brittle, combine the rest of the Aleppo pepper, honey, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Toast the seeds in a skillet heated over medium heat until they are aromatic and becoming golden (do not allow them to burn), 2-3 minutes. Add the honey mixture and cook, stirring, until the mixture starts to clump. This happens fairly quickly, in another 1-2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface, allow to cool, and break it into small clusters.
- Put the collards in their serving bowl and pour the dressing over. Using your hands or tossing vigorously with tongs, coat the leaves with the dressing. Massage the leaves briefly until they become darker and glossier, just a couple minutes, or allow the collards to sit for up to 15 minutes to soften and absorb the dressing.
- Top with toasted sesame seeds or the seed brittle as desired before serving.