Monday, June 11, 2012

Collard Green Rolls

Such beautiful large collard green leaves were provided with our weekly veggies.  It seemed a shame to treat them to the traditional methods of sauteing or creaming.  I while back I came across the ingenious idea of using kale leaves in the same vein as cabbage leaves to craft filling rolls.  Why not use collard greens the same way?  This is a vegetarian version using lentils in lieu of beef, but with the familiar and well loved Italian seasonings.

The recipe is my own

server 6-8

The Ingredients:
1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice
3 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bulb green garlic, minced
4-5 potato onions. thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1- 14 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 - 4 oz can tomato paste
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
8 large collard green leaves
1- 24 oz jar tomato sauce

The Process:
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat bring 1 3/4 cups of stock to a gentle boil.  Add the rice, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 35-40 minutes. Meanwhile in a second saucepan, add the lentils and remaining stock.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Preheat the oven to 350

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onions and celery and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, paste and seasonings, stirring to combine.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the cooked rice and lentils.  Set aside.

Trim away the woody potion of the collard green stems.  Carefully run a knife parallel to the leaf along the raised edge of the stem on the back side, trimming away as much of the vein as possible, without split the leaf.  Stem for 3-4 minutes until soft, or layer between damp paper towels and microwave for 2 minutes, flipping once.

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Working with one roll at a time, position one leaf on a flat surface with the trimmed side up and the stem end facing you.  Scoop a 1/2 - 3/4 cup of the lentil/rice filling on the bottom third of the leaf.

 Carefully fold in both sides of the leaf and roll the bundle up and away from you, completely encasing the filling.

 Lay the roll in the baking dish seam side down and continue with the remaining leaves.

Ladle tomato sauce over the rolls and bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes.  Serve hot.

The Review:
I seem to gravitate towards the labor intensive dishes at times, don't I?  Perhaps I don't notice as much because I use the rice cooking time as the perfect excuse to attempt to keep the clutter from overwhelming the kitchen. is a bit of a feeble attempt.  But our kitchen has remained in some semblance of order for a little while now...

So time labor intensify, but highly worth the effort.  Really, these take no longer than traditional cabbage rolls.  Rice must still be cooked...only I suppose most cabbage rolls are prepared with uncooked hamburger.  I made the mistake of cooking up the meat before stuffing once...not as easy to prepare.

Perhaps that's what's so lovely about this vegetarian version.  The lentils cook down to a point where they almost act as a binder to the rest of the ingredients.  And with out the raw meat filling, they are free to spend less time in the oven.

The collard greens were a wonderful change of pace from cabbage.  Growing up I had often thought cabbage rolls too least the way mom and grandma made them.  Perhaps the acidity from the tomatoes coupled with the cabbage reminded me too much of sauerkraut...which to this day I have not developed much of a taste for.  There is no such pickled or fermented flavored with the collard greens.  And they are much, much more sturdy.  I never had the same ease of rolling up such bundles with cabbage.  Either I never cooked the cabbage enough before hand for the leaves to roll easily, or I over cook them to the point that the leave fell apart at the slightest touch.  And good luck finding 8 perfectly sized cabbage leaves on a head of cabbage.  The collard greens were so much more forgiving, and quite a bit more filling in the end.

I'd love to try other variations of collard green or kale rolls in the future.  Gluten-free burritos?  Curry stuffed leaves?  SO many ideas... 


  1. cabbage rolls are one of my favorite foods, this collards green version intrigues me-very creative!

  2. This is a very different way to have collards. I've always smothered or juiced them. Will try these for July 4th. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Cool idea! I grew up eating this though with white rice. Using collard greens seems to be more susbstantial and nutritious than regular cabbage -- plus your lentil rice mixture looks so delicious!