JJ Johnson, Harlem chef and subject of our recent video series New Chefs Rising, has a cookbook out that you’re going to love. Dive into his unique style of fusion fine cuisine, with Latin, Southern and island influences that are a sight to behold and a wonder to savor. This collard green salad is a masterpiece of flavor and textural balance. Here’s to your health!
Every few months, some food magazine or blog pops up the same tired headline: “Are Collard Greens the New Kale?” No. Collards have worked harder than kale ever will. Collards are out there digging ditches and roofing houses while kale goes to spin class and leaves early for brunch. Collards are natural antioxidants, rich in vitamins A, C, and K, full of fiber and low in calories. But—and this is a big one: collards have a long history of being a vegetable that people only cook the crap out of. It’s braised and simmered within an inch of being edible and, well, that’s got to stop.
Our friends always eat this dish and say, “Isn’t this a kale salad?” The goal is to serve the greens raw so that we think of them as a something healthy and delicious rather than something you combine with bacon fat and cook down. Collards have a natural bitterness, and the elements of this recipe balance those strong flavors with sweetness and spice: sweetness in the coconut milk, spice in the smoked chipotle. There’s a brightness to the dressing that perfectly balances the bitterness of the collards and will give your guests the benefit of enjoying everything collards have to offer. To me, this dish is simplicity done well.
- 3 cups shredded collard greens
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 English cucumber, unpeeled and sliced into half-moon shapes
- About 1/4 cup Coconut Dressing
- 1/4 cup Adzuki red beans
- Candied cashews
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coconut Dressing (makes 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/4 cup canned chipotles in adobo
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
For the dressing
Put the cumin seeds in a small dry 8-inch sauté pan. Toast over medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
Combine the toasted cumin seeds with the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Store in a covered non-reactive container. Refrigerate for up to three weeks.
For the salad
In a large bowl, toss the greens with the onion and cucumber with just enough dressing to coat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Top the salad with the beans and candied cashews.