This recipe traces roots in many directions: the Boston-style baked beans of my youth (who knows how that got imbedded in my mid-western heritage); Southern slow-braised greens and black-eyed peas; and spicy Indian stews are among the inspirational muses. The sauce has a mildly spicy, sweet-sour tang that permeates the creamy beans. Collards are the perfect leaf for this dish since their substance loves a slow braise — they don’t go all mushy on you, but hold their character even as they become tender.
You can substitute prepared mustard for the dry, but it’s a great staple item to invest in for the pantry shelf. Also, I typically use dried beans in my kitchen, but there’s a time investment in soaking overnight and cooking for an hour or more. Canned beans are a perfectly reasonable substitute, just be sure to thoroughly rinse before using to reduce their sodium content.
A word about tomatoes and their paste. I often use canned tomatoes in winter, and if I don’t need the entire tin I toss the leftovers into a ziploc or plastic container and freeze for later. At that point a quick turn in the microwave for a minute allows me to chop the semi-frozen mass into chunks. Tomato paste gets separated into one tablespoon-sized dollops and frozen in waxed paper or plastic wrap — ready for the next pot of chili or beans and greens.
Garam masala (literally hot spice) is an Indian spice blend containing cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander and cardamom among others. Most grocery stores carry it, though you’ll always find it at an Indian market (which is a trip worth taking for many other purposes as well).
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 cup canned tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1-1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 (or less) teaspoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (see headnote)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (or to taste)
- 1 cup water
- 1 bunch collards
- 2 cans cannellini or navy beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 lemon
- Warm some olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and garam masala and sauté until onion is soft and starting to brown.
- Meanwhile remove stems from the collards by cutting up the side of each leaf, along the stem. Roughly chop.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, mustard, vinegar, and cayenne to the skillet. Stir together and add water. Simmer for a minute or two until tomatoes begin to break down into the water.
- Add collards and beans, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 8-10 minutes until beans are soft, greens are tender and sauce has reduced and thickened (and cooked into beans). Squeeze lemon juice on top and mix in.