The longer I’ve been gluten free, the more I realize the thing I miss most about sandwiches is the stuff that goes between the bread. I was reminded of this when I had a great tuna wrap, using a collard green, at Real Food Daily. The mix of tuna salad and veggies made my mouth and stomach very happy.
And the timing was perfect because I’d purchased collard greens just that week to make wraps for my lunch. Collards are great for wraps because they are large, flexible, and sturdy enough to wrap around a good amount of food. They’re also low carb, something my household is very conscious of these days.
The hardest part about using collard greens is there is a bit of prep work involved. I’m not talking about serious time being invested, but you’ll need to set aside about a half hour to get a bunch of leaves ready for quick wraps.
(Also, you can skip the simmering and blanching if you want; I find I prefer a cooked collard over a raw one.)
- First, cut the thick stems to the base of the leaf. Then flip the leaf over and trim down the thick stalk running up the leaf so that it’s even with the leaf.
- Then, put water into a deep skillet or wide pot. Once the water is simmering, drop one leaf at a time into the water and cook for 30 seconds to a minute. The leaves get soft and flexible at about 30 seconds. Over a minute, they can start getting *too* soft.
- Remove the leaf from the simmering water and drop into a bowl of ice water to blanch the leaf for about 10 or so seconds. It will stay bright green and soft. Place the leaf on dish towels to dry out. Repeat with the remaining leaves.
- Once all the leaves are cooked and blanched, blot off any excess moisture. You’ll want them to be fairly dry for storing. They should store in your refrigerator for about three or four days.
Easy, huh? Now to fill those lovely leaves:
- Start with hummus, softened cheese, or any sauce you like as a base on your wrap. Spread over the center of the leaf, concentrating most of the sauce toward the top of the leaf and leaving the edges bare — think burrito-style.
- Layer in other fillings — tuna, leftover pork or other meat, avocado, cheese, veggies, sprouts. It’s a big leaf, so you can make a pretty substantial wrap. Keep these ingredients toward the top of your leaf
- Fold in the outer edges of the leaf. Then roll the wrap toward the bottom of the stem. Repeat as needed.
- To serve, slice the wrap in half. If you want a dipping sauce for your wrap, I won’t judge!
- Alternatively, you can wrap your filling package style. Place the ingredients in the center of the leaf, toward the stem end. Fold the edges of the leaf around your fillings. Here, you’ll want a bit of stickiness — hummus or cream cheese — to hold the leaves in place.
Of course, collard greens aren’t your only choice for making gluten-free wraps. Here are some other ideas:
- Rice Paper Wraps: If you’re familiar with spring rolls, you know that rice paper has a very neutral flavor and can hold a good amount of filling. The neutral flavor means you can put a wide range of meats and veggies into your wrap. My only advice is not to use anything overly wet as a filling because it makes the rice paper too soggy — keep your fillings on the dry side, dipping and eating instead.
- Kale and Chard Wraps: As with collard greens, kale and chard make excellent wraps. Kale, of course, needs to be blanched to make it tender enough to wrap; chard, frankly, I’ve done with and without blanching. I love chard, so the raw, slightly bitter flavor makes me happy.
- Gluten-Free Tortillas: While not every GF tortilla has the, um, flexibility to make a decent wrap, I’ve found the gluten-free flour tortillas from Mission to be excellent wrappers. I do lightly toast my tortilla before using as these tortillas have a slight raw flour flavor straight from the package.
- Nori: Yep, the stuff that gets wrapped around your sushi also makes an excellent wrapper. A with rice paper, nori has a fairly neutral, though sometimes a bit briny flavor. It also doesn’t do well with wet fillings, since it gets soggy quickly. My best trick is to use nori for foods I’ll be consuming quickly…and to use a dipping sauce if a sauce is needed.
Tip of the Week
Collards are pretty tough and sturdy greens, but even they need a little care when being stored in the refrigerator. The best approach, in my opinion, is to wash and trim your greens when you bring them home. Using either a salad spinner or towels (paper or cloth), get your clean greens dry. Then, roll them up in a towel (I use cloth, but paper is fine) so they stay dry. Store in a plastic bag. Remember that the longer the greens are stored, the less fresh they are…if you’re storing for a week, then plan to use the greens in cooked preparations instead of raw.
Menu of the Week
Obviously, this week, we’re eating wraps. I’ve also been on a whole grains kick (and will be writing about my love for buckwheat groats soon!), so I’m throwing some protein into the mix as well. If you don’t have access to cooked buckwheat groats, lentils are a good substitute.
This is a bit of a riff on the mujaddara I mentioned not too long ago: a mix of well-seasoned rice, cooked buckwheat groats, caramelized onions, tangy Greek yogurt spiked with a bit of cumin, and crunchy carrots or sprouts. The yogurt is your bottom layer and enhances the flavor of the rice and buckwheat.
- Rice and Buckwheat Groat Collard Green Wraps
- Sweet Potato Chips