Collards and Sweet Potatoes

by Cate on November 19, 2009

Collards and Sweet Potatoes

I don’t know how it happened.  Maybe it was the blue eyes.  Or maybe it was the bald chef head, which seems to be a recurring theme.  Or maybe I was just really hungry.  But before I knew it, I was adding collard greens and sweet potatoes to my grocery list last week.  I like sweet potatoes.  I like collard greens.  But together?  That was new unchartered territory for me.  But after reading a recent article in People magazine on Sam Kass, a new 29-year-old chef working in the White House, I made plans to make his recipe.  After all, if it’s good enough for the White House, who am I to argue?

Kass’ path to the White House, and his duties there now, are actually quite interesting.  Michelle Obama first met him while he was cooking at Avec in Chicago.  He eventually was hired on as the Obama’s private chef for two years, before the First Family landed in Washington.  She was so impressed with him, that once firmly ensconced in the White House, she brought him on as an assistant White House chef.  Besides cooking and planning menus in the First Kitchen, he is also the first chef to have an official desk at the White House, as he is also charged with being a Food Initiative Coordinator.  Not too shabby a career path for such a young chef.

He is a strong voice for organic and sustainable farming, and was one of the driving forces behind the new White House garden.   He has taken improving the nation’s school lunches on as one of his projects, and is a vocal participant in President Obama’s bi-monthly meetings on improving the health of our children, alongside the chiefs of staff.  In a recent profile that Mark Bittman did on Kass in Men’s Health magazine, Sam had this to say, “The responsibility of all chefs, of all people who cook, is the care and well-being of the people they’re feeding.  Whether it’s in a restaurant, at home, or here, it’s the same: You have to nourish and sustain. Whenever we put food on plates, we have to take that into account.”  Love that.

As for the taste of his recipe?  Not bad.  It’s an interesting combination that works, and it certainly is a healthy side dish that you can feel good about preparing for your family.  Although I love collard greens, this is my first time cooking with them.  One bunch of collards is A LOT of collards.

So far, though, my favorite collard greens come from a restaurant my sister introduced us to years ago, the Freedom Cafe in Maine.  Oh and their macaroni and cheese?  To die for.  The food doesn’t get much better.  I just saw that they have a cookbook available – one that is a definite must-have for my collection.  They also note that they will be retiring and closing the restaurant next October, so if you haven’t been to it yet, and happen to be heading in, through or around Maine, do stop in.

Sweet Potatoes and Greens
Recipe courtesy of Chef Sam Kass

2 or 3 large sweet potatoes (I used 2)
2 bunches of greens (chard, kale or collards) (I used one bunch)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (I skipped)
salt and pepper
1/4 tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil (this has to be a typo, I used more)

1. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into bite size pieces (the size is not as important as the pieces being uniform).

2. Heat half the oil in pan over medium heat and add potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just brown on all sides and soft (about 12-15 minutes, depending on size).  When they are cooked, add spices and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. While the potatoes are cooking, wash the greens (do not dry), remove stems and cut leaves into small pieces. Heat remaining oil over medium heat, add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding greens. Stir often and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine potatoes, honey and lemon juice with the greens, stir and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne November 20, 2009 at 7:15 am

I read an article about Sam Kass in a recent NYTimes Magazine and was really amazed by his rise to the White House. I was also very impressed with the fact that he was into sustainability and healthy eating as opposed to just getting food on the table for the First Family. This recipe looks delicious! I love sweet potatoes.


Natasha - 5 Star Foodie November 20, 2009 at 10:17 am

Sounds like a great combination, definitely a healthy and delicious side dish!


Ramona November 20, 2009 at 10:52 am

Does look healthy. I, like you, have had both, but not together.


Barbara November 20, 2009 at 1:46 pm

I’m willing to try just about anything once- I love sweet potatoes and like collard greens..separately. Going to give this a try though.
Nice start for a young chef. I wish him luck in his career.
Unfortunately I read that the lead content in the soil of the White House garden is so high it cannot be called “Organic”.


girlichef November 20, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I think this combination sounds fantastic!!! I don’t know much about this chef, but I am definitely intrigued!


Shannon November 21, 2009 at 9:36 am

that sounds fabulous! i haven’t tried collard greens, but i do love sweet potatoes :)


Rebekah Williams November 22, 2009 at 1:38 am

I never would have thought to put those two veggies together, but, you know, that photo looks delicious! Might have to try it. Thanks, Cate!


Velva November 22, 2009 at 11:48 am

I never thought to mix collards and sweet potatoes but, why not! The flavor combination is awesome.
Very nice blog post.


grace November 22, 2009 at 6:47 pm

first of all, the colors make a wonderful combination–i love green and orange together! secondly, although i haven’t tasted collard greens and sweet potatoes together, i think it sounds delicious!


kelly@TearingUpHouses November 22, 2009 at 8:25 pm

i only started eating sweet potatoes and collard greens in recent years, but i really like them both. still, i never thought to put them together.

can’t wait to try this!



Rochelle November 24, 2009 at 12:31 pm

When I saw this in People magazine, I made it THAT night and it was delicious! I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving but didn’t have the magazine anymore and was THRILLED to find this blog with the exact recipe. Thanks so much for posting it! I used kale and my kids even liked it!


Steph M November 28, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Anyone else think that 1 teaspoon of honey is a typo? Seems like it should be more. Also missing the amount of lemon juice?? If anyone has made this successfully, please let me know : ) Thanks!


Scott December 4, 2010 at 12:12 am

Loved this recipe. Will make it again. Best way to have collards I have tried yet.
My modifications:
*more oil (2 – 4 Tablespoons?, and it was still pretty dry cooking the sweet potatoes)
*brown sugar instead of honey,
*I added a little wine and covered the pan toward the end of cooking the collards to keep them from drying out and to soften them up a little more. *It might be a good idea to cover the sweet potatoes for at least part of the cooking time too, to get them to cook all the way through, without using too much oil.
*I also noticed that the reicipe doesn’t list lemon juice in the ingredients, but mentions adding it at the end in the instructions. I added about a tablespoon. The flavor balance was really nice.

Thank you so much for putting this recipe up on the web, and for introducing us to a terrific new White House Chef.


swimmer February 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm

this recipe is a joke – you cant cook sweet potatoes in a pan! 15 minutes and they will be hard as ever… I think he forgot to mention to boil them first — this recipe wasted my night – I KNEW not to believe the 12-15 minutes on medium heat… even an inexperienced lay person could tell you that – no sweet potatoe will ever – or any potatoe! be soft on medium heat for 12-15 minutes. ughhhh!


Deb Fox March 4, 2012 at 6:17 pm

The recipe for Sweet Potatoes and Greens in the People Magazine actually showed, juice of half of 1 lemon. I used 1/2 a bunch of kale since it was so much kale. I added as much as I could fit in the pan, and still toss the sweet potatoes which I cooked in 1 T. of oil. I covered sweet potatoes while they cooked. Absolutely Delicous dish.


aleena March 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I tried this tonight, halving the recipe as I only had a small amount of collards to use. I did boil the potatoes because, as another poster said, it seemed odd not to. But all the flavors (honey, lemon, and cinnamon) were amazing and the collards were not bitter at all! I will make this again. Thanks for sharing.


Allie March 5, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Oh good Lord- this is fantastic!


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