the taste space

Citrus Collards and Chickpeas (& Tips for Moving to Houston)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on October 5, 2013

Citrus Collards and Chickpeas

And then there were three.

Three Canadians in Houston!

One of my friends recently moved here and I could not be more thrilled.

After massive hugs and giggles, Rob and I tried had to pass on our new-found Texan/American wisdom:

1. Beware of the drivers and HUGE potholes. Houston’s roads are pretty atrocious (broken roads explained here)

2. Beware of the new bugs here

3. Get used to the heat, quickly. Stay indoors. Use the air conditioner. Do not go outside between 9am and 5pm. ;)

4. Get used to the sporadic rain. In Houston, it will rain like crazy for half an hour, then stop and dry up within another hour. I shudder to think what it will be like when a hurricane hits.

5. Locate your closest recycling depot, fastest DMV, nicest bank

6. Speaking of DMV, learn how to import a Canadian car. It needs a special anti-theft check done once a week during a 30 minute window. Yikes!

7. Lament about the terrible cell phone reception, even within our own home

8. Your SSN is very important. You need it to get paid (and open a bank account). When you are ready to get your SSN (do it ASAP, but after they resume working), show up an hour before they open. Even then, there will still be thirty people ahead of you, possibly more since they have been on shutdown

9. Saturday mail. Yes, they deliver mail on Saturdays!

10. Insurance, insurance, insurance… medical, home/rental, car, etc. Credit card? Well, we have yet to get one from a US bank.

… and many more that I have forgotten or have yet to learn

Of course, we also shared our tips for our favourite grocery stores. We tried to explain the awesomeness of Trader Joe’ but we could see it was lost in translation. Thus, we took matters into our own hands. We brought her for a personalized tour of our favourite eats. Cheap pantry staples, beer, almond milk, vegan ice cream, etc… now we’re talking!

Inspired by talking all things local, I went Southern with my meal, too. Similar to my last Southern beans and greens saute, this is a dish that is more than the sum of its parts. The original recipe was just for the citrus collards, but I swapped things around: dates instead of raisins (and less of them) along with chickpeas to make this a complete meal. Collards are local to the Southern United States, especially during the fall, and are best during the winter. I love collards in all of its forms, but it can be bitter if cooked poorly. This dish uses a few techniques to coax the collards into sweet submission.

First of all, this dish a bit more fiddly than a throw-into-the-pan stir fry. The collards are boiled, blanched and dried. This prevents the need to cook them into oblivion. Next, a quick saute is enough to infuse the greens with the sweetness to offset the collards’ astringency. Fresh orange juice and dates provide a great flavour, too. And then I threw in the chickpeas.

It is funny how our taste buds work. We thought this dish was fabulous. It exceeded my expectations. And then Rob said it: it smelled like bacon. The dish had a depth of flavour that was definitely was reminiscent of bacon even though we did not use liquid smoke nor maple syrup. It must be something about sweet, chewy things that reminds us of bacon. In this case, I think it was the caramel undertones from the pan-roasted dates.

Do you have any other tips for moving to the US? Do you feel like your pant-based meals taste like bacon, too?

Citrus Collards and Chickpeas

This is my submission to this month’s Random Recipe for local ingredients and to this month’s Shop Local Challenge.

Citrus Collards and Chickpeas
Adapted from Vegan Soul Kitchen (original recipe here)

1 large bunch collards, stemmed and thinly sliced (300g prepped)
1 tsp coconut oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if canned
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

1. In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add collards and simmer, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes, until soft. Meanwhile, prepare your ice water bath. Once the collards are finished, drain them and place in the ice water bath to stop their cooking. Squeeze dry and fluff apart.

2. In a large non-stick pan/wok, heat oil. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, around 2 minutes. Add dates and chilled collards. Saute for 1-2 minutes, separating the strands of collards. Add orange juice, salt and chickpeas and heat until warm through, but do not overcook. Season to taste.

Serves 3.

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23 Responses

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  1. sprint2thetable said, on October 5, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    You guys don’t get mail on Saturdays??? We won’t much longer – the postal service is under water big time!

    I have made shiitakes before that I swore had bacon in them. Can’t wait to try this out! I love me some bacon – imagined or not!

  2. sue said, on October 5, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    I applied for a sequence of (ever more demeaning) credit cards when I moved to the US, and after I was turned down for the last one (a gas-station card), I finally shelved my pride completely. I got one of those “credit” cards. It was one where I gave the company $500, and was given a VISA card with a $500 “credit” limit. That was the only way I found to start establishing credit down there. But that was 17 years ago, and I would have thought that the US banks would have been accessing Canadian credit history info by now! Perhaps not.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 5, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      NO! It is the same thing… we tried a bunch of places but decided not to get the $500 deposit/credit card. Perhaps we should do it just to get a credit history? Hmmm….

  3. sarojinididi said, on October 5, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    What a healthy dish! I love it that you used local stuff with your own twist. Congratulations for not being the newest Canadian arrivals in town any more :)

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      Haha, thanks!! We have just a few month’s over our friend, but it certainly helps to chat with others in our situation. :)

  4. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts said, on October 5, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    I laughed at your US tips, having just returned from there as well as Canada. Canada is definitely more like Australia and US is definitely foreign in many ways! I love the sound of this dish but am intrigued by the bacon notes.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:50 PM

      The US is foreign (not too much) but Texas even moreso! Although I have gotten used to the majority of it by now…. Oops, I just realized I forgot a good tip… don’t bother asking whether people have guns. OF COURSE they have guns!! (Actually not true, I have met a handful without gun ownership, hehe)

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:50 PM

      Also, Texans really like football.
      A corollary wold be hockey in Canada, but I never was into any professional sports, hockey included. :P

  5. belleaukitchen said, on October 6, 2013 at 1:36 AM

    A brilliant story and a great introduction to the US. Just enjoy it at let it encase you in its oddities. That dish looks very good and I’m tempted to try it here with our local bacon!!

  6. Joanne said, on October 6, 2013 at 5:12 AM

    It’s so funny the things you don’t think about as a US citizen, that are so different from the neighboring country! I can’t say I’ve ever thought my food tasted like bacon (unless I was using tempeh bacon)…but I never really liked bacon so I guess that’s a good thing!

  7. ✈ veganmiam.com (@veganmiam) said, on October 6, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    Like I’d mentioned, I would love to visit Houston! It’s one of the big U.S. cities I haven’t been to. I think I focused too much on international travels :( And funny list of Texan/American wisdom – that’s helpful for me! :) This dish looks pretty delicious – I didn’t know it came from Vegan Soul Kitchen – I am a huge fan of his recipes especially his creamy cashew grits!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:48 PM

      Thanks for the tip on the grits. Sounds delicious. :) If you ever come to Houston, let me know. We could hook up.. although I would encourage you to also visit Austin and San Antonio, because there is only so many things to do here. ;)

  8. Bonnie said, on October 6, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Janet, you forget to talk about the crazy drivers, and the Texan’s defintion of a “cool front”. It was in the high teen’s, low twenty’s this morning and everyone at work was talking about the “cool front”……..
    As for the SSN: ARGH! I can’t get it becuase the social security offices are all shut down from the government shut down! So if it drags on and on, I will not be fully enrolled on the hospital payroll and so won’t get paid, won’t get medical insurance coverage, etc. Yet somehow, I am still expected to work. ARGH!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:46 PM

      Yeah, their cold is our still warm! But you can definitely feel when it is cooler…. I think this week is supposed to be nice, too.

      Btw, I still have not figured out why you can’t get medical insurance…. CRAZY!

  9. Allysia Kerney said, on October 6, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Lol, I love and miss dearly the Texas heat. I remember going for walks with classmates at noon in late spring/early summer – we sweat a lot, ha ha. :) Worth it. And I never burned! Could do without the roaches though. These collards look great, I love the OJ/dates thing! I usually don’t think to add fruit to savory meals but it can be so awesome when done right.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      Funny you mention the sunburns or lack of them. It is true.. I have a bit of a tan but don’t put on any sunscreen for my weekday commutes… whereas in Toronto, if I am out in the summer for 20 minutes, I get burned fast. I slather the sunscreen on for my weekend rides, because they are longer, but it is interesting you noticed the same thing… Thankfully, no roaches here (yet).. and no armadillos yet, either… but I’ve seen alligators!! :)

  10. Chris@TalesofaKitchen said, on October 8, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    I actually made something very similar the other day. I used currants instead of dates and tried a dressing made with preserved lemons. I love citrusy chickpea with leafy greens! Yours looks super delicious!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 8, 2013 at 8:13 PM

      Preserved lemons sound like such an unusual twist. I agree, though, citrus pairs so well with greens. One can always use more variations. :)

  11. […] have been eating my greens, but most of the time, I have been thinking of the dessert that awaits afterwards. Since moving to […]

  12. […] Americans. Toronto is colder than Houston, but not nearly as cold as Ottawa, let alone Edmonton. My friend who recently joined us in Houston came from Edmonton, where she explained she could take a cup of […]

  13. TIFFIN bitesizedfood (@TIFFINbitesized) said, on October 30, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    I can barely detect a trace of Canadian accent in this post! Funny you say about tastebuds and your mind – I smoked some tomatoes for a smoked tomato sorbet and when my mum tried it, she insisted that there was bacon in it. Thanks for sharing!

  14. […] Citrus Collards and Chickpeas […]


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