We Southerners think we own greens. We even romanticize collards, saying that first frost imparts a sweetness that removes their natural bitterness.
Now I love a pot of long-simmered, pork-scented mustard, turnips, collards or kale as much as anybody.
Yet theres complexity of flavors and techniques to be found throughout the world of greens.
Brazilians slice kale into chiffonade, saute it with olive oil and garlic and serve it as an accompaniment to pork-laden feijoada. Italians add greens to hearty full-meal soups and stews.
The French bathe spinach in cream and butter, an elegant treatment that suits collards and kale just as well. Just lately, baked kale leaves have been hailed as a healthy answer to potato chips.
Bet you cant eat just one.
Everywhere you look, American cooks celebrate leafy greens in ways both fresh and old-fashioned.
North Carolina food writer Sheri Castles The New Southern Garden Cookbook devotes an entire chapter to greens, from Melted Tuscan Kale to Creamed Collard and Country Ham Pot Pie with Cornmeal Pastry. Atlantas Miller Union serves kale and squash toasts.
Raleigh cookbook author Fred Thompson, who writes The N&Os Weekend Gourmet column, is so proud of his mamas collards that he prepared them on the Live Well Networks My Family Recipe Rocks show earlier this year.
In The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, Birmingham, Ala., chef Frank Stitt offers collard green and white bean gratin, a delicious peasant dish thats kind of like a Southern cassoulet.
After cooking through a bunch of recipes for this article, I ended up with a big mess of turnips and kale. Using olive oil, bacon, onion, celery, garlic, hot pepper, vinegar and a splash of molasses, I simmered up a basic pot of greens.
I dumped in leftover white beans and chopped new potatoes and topped it off with grilled sausage.
With a little fooling around, you, too, can create a dish that gives mamas pot likker a shot of flair.
For a printable version of the recipes, click the links: