Red Rice & Collards

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Local, organic smoked bacon adds flavor to slowly braised collards and garlicky whole grain brown rice. 

Yeah, you read that right.  My name is Rachael Hartley.  I am a registered dietitian and I love bacon. 

Now, before you get your hopes up, this isn’t a post about new science revealing bacon's superfood status.  It’s not.  And if you read my last post, you know I haven’t gone all Atkins on you. 

This may surprise you, but I think bacon can help you eat an overall healthier diet. Because bacon is so flavorful, when used in moderation, it can pack a ton of flavor into an otherwise healthy dish. Living down south, where a mason jar of bacon grease is found in most kitchens, my clients are basically elated to hear my liberal stance on bacon. 

There's other commonly thought of as "bad" foods you can include to enrich the flavor of healthy dishes. For example, a homemade blue cheese dressing can keep a salad from feeling too diet food-ish. Brown sugar in a bowl of oatmeal makes it palatable. Even a little cream adds richness to a sauce without changing it's nutrition that drastically. 

To conclude, a quote:"Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon." ~ Doug Larson

Well, in this case they do!

Red Rice

Serves 6

Adapted from Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook. 

Ingredients

  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3-4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (Lee Bros suggest 1 teaspoon, but I was worried it would be too spicy. I found 1/2 teaspoon to be just right, but you can increase it if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large, 12-in ovenproof skillet, fry the bacon until slightly crisped. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and transfer to paper towel lined plate. Add the onion and garlic to bacon fat and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth.
  3. Add the red pepper, smoked paprika, salt, peppper and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover and simmer about 40 minutes until the rice is tender but soupy. Add more broth if needed.
  4. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Serve garnished with the bacon crumbles.

Tuesday Collards

Serves 6

Adapted from Lee Bros Southern Cook book

Ingredients

  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in lardons
  • 2-3 lb collards (about 2 large bunches), stemmed, washed and cut into 1/4-in strips
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon in a 12-in skillet on medium-high heat until browned and firm, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add a few handfuls of collards to the skillet. Using a slotted spoon, toss the collards in the bacon fat and allow them to wilt slightly. Add more collards, a few handfuls at a time, until all the collards are in the pan.
  2. Add the broth and pepper flakes. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and cook until the broth comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 5 minutes until the greens turn very dark green.
  3. Add the vinegar and sugar to the greens. Toss to combine. Cook, uncovered, about 5 more minutes, to allow the broth to reduce. Season with salt and pepper and serve.