Collards with artichoke hearts, olives and capers

Collards with artichoke hearts, olives and capers

Collards with artichoke hearts, olives and capers

Isaac carried his new superhero to school today. He’s made of bright pink pipe cleaners (the superhero, not Isaac.) His name is eel man. Isaac started telling me a story about how eel man made a giant ball of electricity and threw it in the ocean and then… “Is eel man a good guy or a bad guy?” I asked. Turns out he’s both. “Ah,” I said, “So he’s morally complicated.” Yeah. He’s good when he thinks it would be fun to be good. Well, we got back to the story, but it had changed a little. I could hear the little wheels whirring in Isaac’s head. “Wait, I’m talking to mom, and she’s actually listening to me.” Suddenly eel man’s exploits seemed a little too dangerous for all of the innocent bystanders who might be bobbing in the waves of eel man’s ocean. In the new ending, eel man cuts the nets of fishermen to free the fish. Which proves how well Isaac knows me, but is also morally complicated, if you think about it too much, because now what will happen to the poor fisherman and his imaginary starving family? Everything is morally complicated if you think about it too much! And I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s good to think about it too much, and try to find some sort of balance that helps you navigate waters made choppy by giant balls of electricity. I’ve been reading my new biography of Jean Vigo. His father took the nomme de guerre Miguel Almereyda, and anagram for “there’s the shit.” He had a hard life, he had plenty of reasons to be angry at the world. His family abandoned him, and as a teenager he found himself sick, alone and starving. He was imprisoned several times as a boy…once for “borrowing” money to pay rent, and once for attempting to blow up a pissoir, although he was so worried about hurting innocent people that he bungled the whole effort. He was sent to prison none-the-less, where he was kept in solitary confinement and semi-darkness and abused by sadistic warders. He found comfort and friendship amongst the anarchists, communists, socialists and syndicalists, and he found an outlet for his passionate anger at society. It’s so strange to read about this world, so morally complicated as to be contradictory–so appealing and flawed, so concerned with organizing and yet so chaotic. We meet violently angry pacifists, militant anti-militarists. They started a newspaper and words were their weapons. Their ideals changed subtly all the time as the world about them changed, and they spoke with complete certainty and passion about each changing belief. Their words were so effective that they were received with fear and distrust as if they had been actual weapons. Almereyda found himself in and out of prison, sentenced again and again for articles that questioned the system, that encouraged strikes by workers and soldiers. Everything fell apart with WWI. Everything changed in ways that were beyond Almereyda’s control. But it seems that he and his friends still struggled to make sense of it, they continued to write about it, they tried to ensure that the changes that came with the war were good for the people, for the workers, for the poor. And many years later, his son Jean would make films that celebrated revolution and anarchy, but glowed with love for all people and reverence for all life, and these would be feared and banned, too. But they would live on as a testament to the power of word and image, to the revolutionary power of art. It’s a funny old world.

Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love collards! I’ve never treated them quite like this, but I thought it was delicious. Collards have a textural assertiveness that went perfectly with the bright sharp flavors of capers and olives. This was very simple to put together. If you added some beans to the dish (white would be nice!) and served it with rice or pasta, you’d have a quick meal.

Here’s Rebel Waltz from The Clash

1 bunch collards, washed, stems removed, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t red pepper flakes
2 t rosemary
1 t oregano
1 t basil (or a small handful fresh basil, added at the end)
1/2 t thyme
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 cup artichoke hearts (I used canned in brine) roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 t balsamic
1 T butter
salt and plenty of pepper
grated sharp cheddar or mozzarella, to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and drop the collards in. Boil for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how you like your collards. I like mine soft, so I leave them in for the longer period of time. Drain.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook for about a minute till it starts to brown. Then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried herbs. Stir and cook till the garlic starts to brown, under a minute. Add the white wine, and cook till you have a syrupy consistency. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, capers and tomatoes, stir to coat, then add the collards. Stir to mix everything and be sure that it’s all coated with herbs.

Cook until the tomatoes are just softened. Stir in the balsamic and butter. Season with a little salt (remember that olives, capers and artichoke hearts can be quite salty, so be sure to taste it first!) and lots of pepper.

Grate on some sharp cheddar or mozzarella, if you like, and serve.

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