The annual start of the local Farmer’s Market is a source of much anticipation and excitement in our house. By the time late May rolls around it feels like an eternity since I last tasted freshly grown lettuce or experienced the joy of a ripe tomato. While I’m still waiting for the tomatoes, our market has an abundance of cold weather greens and lettuces.

In typical fashion, during the first few weeks of the market we feel so deprived of garden fresh produce that I want to buy one of everything. Swiss chard, asparagus, spinach- yes please! This weakness led to the spontaneous purchase of a bag of collard greens. Now I was raised about as far north as you can live in the continental U.S. without sporting a Canadian accent. Collard greens were unheard of at our dinner table. My only recollection of what to do with collard greens, was to cook the heck out of them and add bacon. Yet with beautiful tender young greens and my new limitation of bacon consumption, that method just seemed wrong. Browsing through recipes online I came across several that used collard greens like grape leaves- to wrap around a savory filling. Intrigued, I started digging through my cupboard for things to fill the greens and a recipe was born.

To prepare the collard greens for rolling, you simply take thin knife and shave down part of the thick stem and then blanch the leaves in water for a few minutes. Then they are ready for a savory stuffing of meaty beans, cooked brown rice, crunchy slivered almonds and sweet golden raisins. I used a long grain basmati style brown rice for the rolls called Texmati. Unlike short grain brown rice which tends to clump together in a ball of mush if you aren’t careful, the Texmati rice kept a firm texture with individual grains when cooked. {Disclosure- I was sent a sample of Texmati rice, with no obligation for a review.}

I took my cues for the filling from bobotie, a traditional South African dish of saffron scented rice and meat. Garlic, curry powder, and turmeric meld with the saffron for an exotic combination of flavors. A bit of chopped preserved lemon adds a sour zip to the mix. When rolled in a collard leaf, smothered in a chunky tomato sauce, and baked the finished rolls burst with flavor. If you eat meat, swapping out the beans for cooked ground lamb would be a fantastic substitution. If you’d rather stick with the vegan version, this is a hearty satisfying dinner celebrating the best of early Spring greens.

Collard Rolls in a Spicy Tomato Sauce Print Recipe

Recipe Thumbnail

Serves Serves 4


  • 24 Collard Leaves (about 9 ounces)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 large Onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 7 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Hot Curry Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Saffron
  • 28 ounces Canned Italian Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Cooked Brown Rice
  • 1/2 cup Golden Raisins
  • 1 cup Cooked Beans (use a plump meaty variety such as Borloti or Cannellini)
  • 1/2 cup Slivered Blanched Almonds
  • 1/2 Preserved Lemon, rinsed and minced

Cooking Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle.
Wash the collard greens thoroughly. Using a sharp small knife, shave the thick part of the stem off of each leaf.
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add 12 collard leaves to the water and blanch for 3 minutes. Pull the leaves out of the water and drain. Repeat with the remaining 12 leaves.
Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil to the pan along with the onions and garlic. Saute until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, curry powder, saffron, tomatoes, and water to the pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside, reserving 1/2 cup for the filling.
In a large bowl, mix together the rice, raisins, beans, almonds, and preserved lemon. Add 1/2 cup of sauce and gently stir until all ingredients are incorporated.
Spread the remaining sauce evenly across the bottom of an 11x17 pan.
Place a collard leaf stem side down on a flat surface. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of the rice filling onto the bottom (stem end) of the leaf. Fold the left and right sides inward over the filling and then roll the leaf from the stem end up to the top, forming a neat package. Nestle the collard roll into the tomato sauce in the pan. Repeat with the remaining leaves until all of the filling or all of the leaves are used. The rolls should be tightly packed into the pan.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm with sauce spooned on top of the rolls.

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