Sunday, May 18, 2014

Collard Greens Soup Karalahana Çorbası

The apartment that I lived in Ankara was on the first floor of one of those old 4 story buildings with just two apartments on each floor and a back yard that the residents didnt care about. A month after the move I remembered there was a back yard and looked over to check it out. Among the things that you can find in the back yards of apartment buildings in Turkey are gazebos, junk, flower beds, people playing "okey," a tile-based game similar to Rumikub, or people drinking tea and eating sunflower seeds. Therefore, I was quite surprised when I saw collard greens in my buildings back yard. And I am not talking about two or three plants here; I am talking about endless rows and rows of collard greens. Collard greens is an indispensable component of the Black Sea cuisine in Turkey, and it is difficult to find them outside that province. So I immediately knew there was a homesick Karadenizli (a person from Black Sea) in the building who apparently had a big craving for collard greens. I was right; our concierge Pakize was from Trabzon and capable of consuming a back yard worth of collard greens with her husband in 2-3 months.

The discovery of garden of collard greens intrigued me to cook with them. The next winter I borrowed a bunch of collard greens time to time from Pakize and made collard greens soup based on her instructions. Later, I had this soup a couple of times at different seafood restaurants, but they were not even close to Pakizes recipe. This soup, a specialty of Black Sea, is just perfect for cold winter nights. It has greens, beans, and corn in it; what else can you ask for?        

1 large bunch collard greens
1/2 cup dry white beans (cannellini or northern beans)
1/2 cup cracked corn (you can find cracked corn at Middle Eastern or organic food stores or feeder stores) OR 1/2 cup coarse grits if you cannot find cracked corn
1/4 cup corn flour
7-9 cups of water
3-4 tbsp butter
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp red hot pepper flakes (in traditional recipes you cannot find spice for this soup, but I think hot peppers, hot pepper flakes, or sauces makes this soup even better)

-A night before, put beans in a pot with 3 cups of water. First bring to a boil, then turn it off. Cover and soak overnight.
-The next day cook the beans until soft. (Or use 1 can of beans)
-Wash collard greens well, discard bad leaves and leaf tops. Chop the stems finely. Cut the leaves first into stripes, then into edible-size squarish pieces.
-Boil 7-8 cups of water in a big pot.
-Add collard greens and cracked corn into the boiling water. Cook until soft: ~20-25 minutes.
-Add beans.
-Add corn flour and keep stirring constantly while adding it to prevent lumping.
-Turn the heat to low-medium and cook for almost half an hour to let the soup thicken stirring every 3-45 minutes.
-Heat butter in a small pan. When its hot but nit burning, add paprika. Let sizzle for a couple of seconds.
-Serve the soup with a spoon or two of butter and paprika on top.

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