Almost Turkish Recipes

Rolled Collard Green Leaves with Ground Meat (Etli Kara Lahana Sarması)

Although kara lahana [literally black cabbage in Turkish] collard greens are a staple in the American South, they are grown and enjoyed exclusively in the Northern part of Turkey, i.e., the Black Sea Region. Rolled collard green leaves is one of the most iconic dishes of the Black Sea cuisine competing with collard greens soup (recipe here). We’re getting collard greens in our CSA farm box almost every week and I am turning them into soups or rolls. Here’s a classic meaty rolled collard greens recipe.

serves 4-6
3 bunch collard greens
1 lb ground meat (beef or half beef + half lamb)
1 big onion, finely chopped
1 cup rice
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup grated tomato (~2 tomatoes)
1/3 to ½ cup chopped fresh dill
1 tsp (or less) black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 bone (optional) [In Black Sea cuisine it is a must to cook the collard green rolls with a bone at the bottom of the pot; it adds extra flavor and deliciousness to the dish, but the dish is excellent without a bone as well)  

For the sauce
(You can adjust the amount of butter and oil, or whether you will use both or just one based on your taste. I prefer this sauce only with butter.)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato or pepper paste (spicy pastes go really well with the rolls)
2 tbsp grated tomato or tomato sauce

-Wash the collard green leaves. Cut the stems off and set aside; do not discard them.
-Bring water in a big pot to boil. Boil the collard green leaves 4-5 leaves at a time for 4 minutes. Leave in a colander until all leaves are boiled.
-While the collard green leaves are cooling off, mix well all the other ingredients in a bowl.
-Get a wide bottom, preferably stainless steel pot and place the cut off stems at the bottom. These will protect your precious rolls from getting stuck and burnt. (If you are using a bone, place it there as well.)

-Now the rolling part: put a leaf on a flat surface such as a cutting board, your counter, or a tray. Cut the leaf lengthwise into two and take out the middle stem.

-There are many ways of rolling these leaves such as rolling lengthwise, making triangle bundles, or using the whole leaf if small; however, I find rolling them by placing the stuffing on the long side more practical and easier.
- Place ~2 tbsp stuffing on the leaf. Do not over stuff them or they will come undone while cooking. Fold the sides and roll. Repeat until you stuffed all the leaves.
-Pour water over the rolls to barely cover them; the top parts should not be in water. [If, for some reason, you opt out of the sauce, you should add oil right now.]
-First bring to a boil and cook on low for 25-30 minutes.
-For the sauce: Heat the oil(s) in a pan. Once hot add paste and grated tomato. Cook for 3 minutes.
-Pour over the cooked rolls. The rolls go well with bread and yogurt on the side.

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