Greens with peanut sauce.


It’s amazing how much I can get done when I stay away from the computer. This day, I got up, padded downstairs, made coffee…and never left the kitchen.

This recipe for collards with coconut and peanut butter (“…a modern adaptation of the peanut stews common to West Africa and the Sea Islands….”) is a new favorite at our house, a welcome respite from the usual bacon-grease-and-onions treatment for greens. This version is vegan, but you could easily swap out the coconut oil for bacon grease. I served mine over rice, with a few dashes of hot sauce.

So back to this dish. My eye is always drawn to the overlooked, the passed over, the forgotten, the orphans, the stuff nobody else wants or even sees. So it was with great delight that I espied two bags of Brussels sprout tops (leaves and a bit of stalk) at the farmers’ market, for a dollar apiece.

Most people never see them because they’re usually removed and used for livestock fodder or compost. If you ask nicely, the farmer might give you a bag for free. The leaves and stalks of cauliflower and broccoli also work well in any dish calling for collards or cooked spinach. You could also use beet or radish or radish tops, lambsquarters, amaranth, or dandelion greens. All are cheap (or even free), densely nutritious, and delicious.

I haven’t tallied anything up, but I’d guess the peanut butter is the most expensive ingredient here. I grew the garlic last summer.

I love letting season and circumstance determine what I cook. If it’s in season (on farm, field, or forest), if it’s local, if it’s on clearance (my favorite section of my supermarket’s produce department), if it was going to be discarded – I’ll build a dish around it.

It took a long time for my inner rebel to understand and embrace the truth that limits can actually spark creativity. All the world’s great cuisines were born of scarcity. So I try to do as much as I can with as little as I can, with cleverness and creativity, and somewhere in the process I usually stumble upon a little grace.