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Collard Greens with Benne Seeds and Chili Oil

The unexpected flavors of this dish exemplify contemporary Southern cuisine at its best. The greens are not cooked for hours as was often done in the past, and the toasty flavors of the benne (sesame) seeds pair nicely with the bitterness of the vegetable. If you prefer, use hot-pepper vinegar instead of the cider vinegar and chili oil.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens or broccoli rabe, tough
      stems and wilted leaves discarded
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 dried hot chilies, broken in half crosswise
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. hot chili oil

Directions:

Cut the greens into 1-inch pieces. Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the greens and stir to immerse completely in the water. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the greens and place under cold running water to stop the cooking. Transfer to a large kitchen towel, wrap well and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

In a large fry pan with deep sides over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, chilies, sesame seeds and rosemary and cook, stirring, until the sesame seeds begin to lightly brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the greens and honey. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the greens are well coated with the other ingredients and heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the greens to a large bowl and drizzle with the vinegar and chili oil just before serving. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking Series, The South, by Roy Overton (Time-Life Books, 2000).