This morning at 06:00 I ran to the Alexandria farmers’ market in hopes of securing two kinds of greens, two kinds of fruit, a carnival or acorn squash, and cauliflower. No dice on the cauliflower. In the early morning darkness, I looked from the hot peppers to the summer squash to the bell peppers at the Bigg Riggs tables and settled on an orange pepper to include in the curry I’m making later today.
Turns out, the collards I bought from Lucia of Shamba Farms were precisely the size and thickness I wanted to recreate Chicken Cordon Bleu. My mom first made this recipe in her personal chef days, and I think she served it at either my or my brother’s birthday party in the early 2000’s. She also made a Chicken Cordon Vert version with cheddar cheese and green chiles at some point. While the version I made (for lunch, no less) tastes sweeter than the original (really, it has very little in common with the original), it’s gourmet vegan cuisine. It could be made raw, too, if you roll that way.
Collards Cordon Vert
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon dried thyme (use a few springs of fresh if you have it)
2 onions, cut into large cubes
3 cloves garlic, halved width-wise
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips
1 cup un-salted sunflower seeds, roasted, toasted, or soaked (soak overnight)
salt and pepper to taste
3 large collard leaves, washed and large stems trimmed (leave them on if you desire)
water to steam
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss together the oil, thyme, onion, garlic, and pepper until evenly coated. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir around. Wait for them to cool a few minutes before removing from the sheet and separating the peppers from the onions and garlic.
On the same baking sheet, if you are roasting your sunflower seeds now, arrange the sunflower seeds in a single layer and return baking sheet to the oven to roast for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.
Alternately, you can soak the sunflower seeds overnight and discard the soaking water. Also, you can toast the seeds in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until fragrant, stirring occasionally.
Place the onions, garlic, and sunflower seeds in a blender or food processor. Blitz until mostly combined but still slightly chunky.
Fill a large pot with two inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the collard greens, replace the lid, and cook for a minute and thirty seconds or until the collards have wilted slightly and the stems are flexible. They will turn emerald green and lose their dusty look. Remove from the heat immediately and place on the baking sheet.
On the baking sheet, fold one leaf in half. Spread 1/3 of the sunflower mixture on the leaf.
Top with a few slices of roasted pepper.
Roll, beginning with the tip of the leaf. You may have to break the stem to complete the spiral.
Repeat with the remaining greens. Bon appetit!