In Season: Robert Newton’s Vietnamese-Inspired Collard Greens

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Photo: Bobby Doherty; Illustrations by John Burgoyne

This hardy member of the cabbage family is often thought of as a winter green, but it actually has two growing seasons: one that begins in the fall and another that starts in the spring and tapers off during the high heat of summer. It’s not as popular as its trendy cousin, kale, but its leaves have a similarly earthy taste and contain many of the same nutritional benefits. Also like kale, collards can be slightly bitter when raw, but massaging oil into the greens makes them tastier and more supple, as in this Vietnamese-inspired salad from Nightingale 9 chef Robert Newton.

Robert Newton’s Shaved Collard Greens With Coconut and Shallot-Lime Vinaigrette

1 cup shallots, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
1 cup canola oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt (for vinaigrette), plus more for seasoning
1 mature brown coconut (you should be able to hear water swishing around inside)
1 pound collard greens, washed and dried
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbs. fresh lime juice

Place the shallots in a pot, and cover with canola oil. Fry over a low flame, stirring often, until golden (about 20 minutes). Remove, drain on paper towels, and season with salt. Strain and reserve the oil for the vinaigrette. Wash the coconut to remove any excess dirt. Using a screwdriver, poke 2 holes in it, then strain out the water and reserve for another use. With a hammer, crack the coconut around its circumference until it breaks in half. Separate the coconut meat from the outer husk with a butter knife. Peel off the brown skin on the outside of the meat with a vegetable peeler, leaving behind solid white pieces of coconut. Rinse the coconut, then grate with a Microplane to yield at least ½ cup and set aside; save the remainder for another use. (1) Remove the stems from the collard greens, then (2) slice the leaves, chiffonade style, into 18-inch strips. Place in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. For the vinaigrette, combine the lime juice and salt in a mixing bowl, then slowly whisk in the strained shallot oil. Pour about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette over the collards, and refrigerate the remainder for another use. (3) Gently massage the vinaigrette into the collards until well integrated. To serve, divide the collards into 4 bowls, put 2 tablespoons of coconut on top, and sprinkle with fried shallots.

*This article originally appeared in the June 24, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.