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I created this recipe while I was the head chef at one of Charlotte’s first vegetarian restaurants, The Peaceful Dragon. We were also 90% vegan. When we started getting close to the holidays I was trying to come up with vegan versions of holiday favorites. I saw a lot of recipes for collards that used mushrooms instead of ham hocks but our menu was already saturated with mushrooms. Somehow or another the idea struck me to use smoked tomatoes and, well, there you have it. 

So the one weirdness here are the smoked tomatoes, right? Well, don’t be scared off: it’s super-easy and super-fast to do. There are stove top smokers available at places like Sur la Table for around $60 and smoking guns that run a little higher.

But you can make one yourself out of equipment you have at home. When I do it at home, I get my cheapest pot with tall sides and line the bottom with aluminum foil. I put my soaked chips on top of the foil and put the pot over high heat. Whatever I am smoking goes into a colander or other perforated pan that fits inside the pot but doesn’t touch the bottom. There have been times I’ve had to get very creative with this part, sometimes suspending a colander over the pot with chopsticks weaved through the handles. Anyways, once the smoke starts put your loaded perforated pan in the “smoker” and cover with a lid or another piece of aluminum.

Keep in mind this is a hot smoking process which will cook your foods or at least heat them up, to a degree. So don’t let the tomatoes go too long or they’ll turn to pulp. Make sure your hood is working well or you may want to consider doing this smoking on the grill outside.

You can watch a video how to do it here if you’re more visually minded.

Chef Geoff’s Vegan Collards with Smoked Tomatoes

  • 2 bunches collard greens, de-stemmed, rough chop
  • Vegetable oil as needed
  • 1 yellow onions, julienne
  • 2 tsp garlc
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 smoked tomatoes
  • ½ c cider vinegar
  • 3 c apple cider
  • 2 T sugar

Water or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large pot over medium high heat, add a little vegetable oil then the onions. Sauté the onions over high heat for a couple of minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow onions to caramelize lightly.

Add crushed red pepper, garlic, and smoked tomatoes, cook for 5 more minutes.

Add the vinegar, sugar and cider.

Then start loading the collards.

All your collards may not fit at first but allow the heat to break them down a bit and you’ll be able to work it in in batches.

Add some vegetable stock/water, but not too much as the collards will also release moisture as they cook. You can always add more later if you need to. Add the salt, pepper and vinegar and allow it to cook long enough for all of the flavors to come together.

Geoff Bragg

About Geoff Bragg

Geoffrey Bragg was born on Fort Rucker in Alabama to an Army major raised in Tampa and his Vietnamese wife. Needless to say, the blend of cultures created an interesting culinary dichotomy Geoff feels was extremely influential to his cooking today. He was raised in Charlotte and has always considered himself a product of the South. With an extensive resume, from vegetarian restaurants to gastropubs, Geoff is currently working as a personal chef with a focus on culinary instruction. He is excited to be back in the city he calls home, close to family and friends and working on a project he feels will help to shape Charlotte’s already explosive culinary scene.

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