Collards & black beans slow cooked with black cardamom

collards and black beans

On the last day of school, Isaac said, “Mom, for summer vacation I want to go to a big field somewhere and play tag.” And that was his whole plan! I love that idea. I love the simplicity of it. I can just picture our family, all summer long, in a big glowing green field, playing tag. I feel that I have less and less ambition to make big plans and take big trips. I’ve always had something of Moley about me. Or maybe Ratty – content to while away the hours in my riverside home. I do love to travel – just the other day I was thinking about how nice it is to walk around a strange city early in the morning. I do want to take the boys to other countries, and show them that their home is only the center of their universe. But for now, I’m happy spending long, slow summer days with the boys, not doing much of anything at all. Today we went creeking. They threw rocks in the creek, and found a spider the size of Isaac’s hand (biggest spider I have ever seen in real non-zoo life!) They built a pyramid of smooth creek rocks. And on the way back through the woods we found two little ponds. Malcolm waded through them, and spotted a frog. The plump bronzy-green frog swayed in the small waves made by Malcolm’s steps, his little froggy hand reaching toward the slick bank to ground himself. Malcolm made a dive for him, and he swam under a large rock. We decided to wait, as quietly as possible, for the murky water to clear, and the frog to reemerge. I’ve been trying to slow myself down, lately. I’m always impatiently on to the next thing, I can’t sit still. This is why I can’t do yoga, and I can’t enjoy sitting at the beach for hours and hours. I feel like I’m anxious to get things over with and carry on, even if I’m doing something I’m enjoying. I don’t know why. I’m always hurrying the boys from place to place like a madwoman, even though we almost never have anywhere we need to be, in the summer. So we stood very still, and listened to the wind in the trees far over our heads, and felt the warm dapply sun. You can’t hurry a frog!

In that spirit, I made beans from scratch, in the slow cooker. As I’ve said in the past, I almost always use canned beans. (I’m actually very loyal to goya as a brand, and I think their beans are fresh and tasty. My first product endorsment!) But it’s fun to make beans from scratch, sometimes. It’s nice to use the slow cooker, on a hot day, because it doesn’t warm up the kitchen too much. And I like collards in a slow-cooked scenario, because their flavor develops nicely and they don’t turn to mush. I’ve also been on a food-quest for black cardamom, lately, and I finally got a big bag, and I was extremely eager to try it out. They’re wonderful! Big wrinkly black pods, with the most amazing smoky-sweet flavor. I love them! Their taste is milder than their smell. If you can’t find them, you can use green cardamom, or cardamom powder, and add a touch of smoked paprika, if you have it. This would probably good with rice, but I didn’t think of that at the time!

Here’s Ken Parker with Groovin in Style. I love this song so much! This is what we’ll sing while we play tag in our big glowing green field.

2 T olive oil
1 bunch of collards, washed and stem removed, chopped into pieces about 1 or 2 inches square. (About 2 packed cups pre-cooked)
1 cup black beans
4 scallions, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 t red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 plump clove garlic – minced
1/2 inch cube ginger, grated or minced
4 black cardamom pods
1 t tomato paste
2 t raw or brown sugar
2 T butter
1/4 t allspice
pinch cinnamon
1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped in half or thirds
1 t balsamic vinegar
salt and plenty of pepper

Rinse the black beans. Put them in a big pot with plenty of water to cover. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and let them sit for about an hour. Drain them.

In another big pot warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, scallions, ginger, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and cardamom pods, and sautee till the garlic starts to brown.

Add the collard leaves, and stir them so they’re coated with all the good flavors. Cook for about five minutes, then add the black beans and the tomato paste, and cook some more. Maybe ten minutes. You want the collards to be quite wilty.

Add three cups of water, the butter, sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.

Pour the whole mixture into your slow cooker. Cook for about two hours, and then add the tomatoes. Cook for about another hour till the beans are just how you like them. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper, and serve!

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3 thoughts on “Collards & black beans slow cooked with black cardamom

    • Loved it! Thanks! It’s funny – a lot of kids from my high school went to NYC for college. When I visited they would all say, “I haven’t eaten all day and I haven’t slept for a week.” And I thought, “that’s just silly!”

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