Ethiopian Cuisine — Gomen: Stewed Greens

Leafy greens are an essential part of the Ethiopian diet.  Gomen (recipe follows), collard greens stewed until tender and spiced with niter kibbeh (Ethiopian clarified butter), are perhaps Ethiopia’s favorite vegetable dish.

More Ethiopian dishes on The World Cup of Food:

  • Injera, Ethiopian sourdough flatbreads (with Ethiopian cuisine overview)
  • Niter Kibbeh, Ethiopian spiced clarified butter

Collard greens, unlike some of their cousins like kale or mustard greens, have a very firm, almost tough texture and need a long time to cook before they are tender.  Any green, leafy vegetable could be substituted (with the benefit of a shorter cooking time) but the collard greens are worth the extra effort.

Gomen

adapted from Mesob Across America and the October 2010 issue of Saveur

  • 1 bunch collard green (or kale, mustard greens, or Swiss chard; omit the boiling step if a substitution is made)
  • 2 Tbs niter kibbeh (plain, unsalted butter can be used, though with the substitution the dish becomes ordinary collard greens)
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 2 Tbs minced ginger

Collard greens take forever and a half to cook.  The thick stems, however, will never be tender no matter how long they sit in a simmering stockpot:

collardgreens

Removing the stem is easy; we simply grabbed the bottom and pulled toward to tip of the leaf, stripping the stem out pretty cleanly:

collardgreensstemmed

Once all of our collard stems were out of the picture, the remaining leaves were stacked, rolled tightly, and sliced across their length into about one-quarter inch strips:

collardgreenssliced

The collards were washed thoroughly under cold running water in a strainer, then placed in a stockpot and covered with water and brought to a simmer on the stove.  The greens were cooked for about an hour (yes, an hour!) until tender but still holding their shape:

collardscooked

The greens were drained, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.  Next the niter kibbeh was melted over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed pan and the onions and ginger were sautéed until softened and fragrant, about five minutes:

onionsandgingersoftening

The collards were added with a little bit of the reserved boiling water:

collardsadded

The greens were cooked with the onions and ginger, adding more cooking liquid as needed to keep the mixture wet, for about half an hour:

gomen

Collard greens have a richer, deeper flavor than their related leafy vegetables, and were a perfect canvas on which to build flavors of onion and ginger.  The spices from the niter kibbeh gave the dish an exotic flair and elevated our gomen from understudy to costar of our Ethiopian dinner.

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