New Orleans — home to beignets, gumbo and jambalaya — is not exactly a mecca of healthy eating. Lifelong resident Courtney Clark grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward watching friends and family cook dishes that were loaded with salt and fat, and then tragedy struck: By age 35, she had lost her mom and her husband to heart disease. She was desperate to save others from a similar fate. Enter Backyard Gardeners Network, a nonprofit that maintains community gardens and teaches locals how to think differently about their diets. Courtney joined the team five years ago, and now she runs a 10-week course called Food as Medicine. In the class she teaches participants how to read nutrition labels, eat more plant-based foods and adjust their cooking (like making their own low-sodium Creole seasoning). Many of her students have lost weight, lessened or stopped medications and shifted their way of eating entirely. “It’s hard trying to change the minds of people who have been cooking one way for all of their lives,” she admits. “But to hear a lady in her late 60s say, ‘This is the first time I’m tasting an avocado, and I love it,’…that’s what I live for. We’re gathering people around good, fresh food that’s not going to give them a heart attack,” she says. Here’s Courtney’s healthy take on a classic Southern side.
Remove the large stems from the collard greens, mustard greens and kale and cut the leaves into bite-size pieces.
Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add all the onions and cook until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, or until softened.
Add the stock, Creole seasoning, curry powder, paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Start adding the greens in batches, letting them wilt slightly before adding more; it may take about 10 minutes to get all the greens to fit. Cover and simmer, stirring halfway through, until the greens are wilted and tender, about 25 minutes. Season with salt, if desired.