It’s not unusual to hear a parent lament over their child’s fear of certain vegetables. Beets, brussels sprouts, and eggplant seem to be common offenders. But let’s face it, adults are afraid of vegetables too. When was the last time you filled your grocery cart with rutabaga, daikon radish, morel mushrooms, or any of the less familiar items that populate our produce departments these days?
How are we to expect our kids to expand their palates if we aren’t doing it ourselves? I’m guilty of staying within the safety of the familiar myself, which is exactly why I signed up for a cooking class last month specifically devoted to taking the mystery out of some of the more mysterious vegetables.
Taught at 18 Reasons, a non-profit associated with the venerable Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, the class involved learning how to buy, prep, and cook the likes of nettles, tomatillos, daikon radish, and collard greens. The DELICIOUS results of our kitchen handiwork made me want to march straight to the farmers’ market to stock up and cook some of these new foods at home, starting with these tacos.
Unlike your standard meat and cheese numbers, these tacos are done up with tender collard greens topped with fresh tomatillo salsa and a dollop of creme fraiche. It’s an added bonus that collards are off-the-charts nutritious, right up there with kale and other darky leafy cousins for its health benefits. The tomatillo salsa also adds a nourishing punch and takes just a few minutes to make in a food processor.
If collards are a stretch for your crew, try another sauteed vegetable, or stick to more traditional fixings, just don’t skip out on the fresh salsa. My own kids stared down this vibrant green taco buffet with quizzical looks, but ultimately ventured forth and gave this new take on the taco an across the board “thumbs up.”
NOTE: If you live in or near San Francisco, or have plans to visit, it’s well worth checking out the schedule of classes and events offered at 18 Reasons. I’ll be teaching a Sweet and Salty Snacks class inspired by my cookbook on September 16. Come cook with me!
For the collard greens
1 large bunch collard greens, about 1 1/2 pounds, stemmed and washed in 2 changes of water
2 tablespoons organic virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 serrano chile, stemmed and sliced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup water
For the salsa
1/2 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1/2 to 1 small serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed, peeled and minced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Generous pinch salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 corn tortillas
1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
Cut collard greens into approximately 3-inch squares. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Add the serrano chile and garlic, and sautee for a minute or two. Add collard greens, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup water; stir to combine. Cover the pan and cook collards for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until sweet and tender. Uncover the pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes more, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasoning.
For the salsa: put the tomatillos, serrano chile, garlic, cilantro, sugar, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper into a a blender or food processor and pulse into a coarse puree. Pour into a bowl, taste, and add more salt if needed.
To compose a taco: warm tortillas over an open flame or in a dry cast iron skillet over high heat. Top each tortilla with a generous spoonful of collards, a spoonful of tomatillo salsa, and a dollop of creme fraiche. Add avocado slices and a squeeze of lime, if desired.
Makes 4 servings
Adapted and printed with permission from Michelle McKenzie, 18 Reasons