Collard greens from the deeper south

churrascoWith all the heavy meat, beans and rice in Brazilian food, it’s easy to forget that Brazilians need vegetables, too. In fact, they wield their greens with as much skill as they do their steak. One of the most delicious, yet easiest and cheapest, of Brazilian green dishes is couve, collard greens sautéed in butter. If you’ve ever eaten feijoada—Brazilian pork, beef, and bean stew—you’ve probably had couve on the side. But it’s a perfect accompaniment to all kinds of protein, Brazilian or not.

dscn3131The cooking instructions, which I adapted from the Maria’s Cookbook website, are incredibly simple. Just wash one bunch of collard greens, roll the leaves together like you’re rolling a cigar, and slice them into ¼ inch strips. Then dice half a small onion and a clove of garlic. Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic over medium heat until they soften. Throw in the greens and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until they start to wilt—only a couple minutes.

dscn3135That’s all there is to it, but your finished product will be delightfully crisp and flavorful. The bitterness of the raw greens dissipates as they cook down, leaving only a subtle bite that’s a perfect complement to the garlic and the sweetness of the onions.

The price? At my local supermarket collard greens cost 88 cents a pound; the bunch cost 69 cents. The couve served six, meaning a vegetable side dish for about 11 cents a person. That gives you plenty of money leftover for a few caipirinhas.