Salmon Stuffed Baked Collard Rolls with Red Pepper-Carrot Sauce (gluten free, egg free, dairy free, vegan/vegetarian option)

The other day I wanted something resembling stuffed manicotti, but without the pasta, tomatoes, and cheese. Funny, right? Don't scoff at how weird that might seem. I didn't want the manicotti, I wanted the idea of manicotti - something stuffed, covered in sauce, and baked. Do I like manicotti? That's complicated. I love how it tastes and looks and smells, but I hate how it makes me feel. So in all, I can't really say I like manicotti, I just like the idea of manicotti. Good in theory, bad in practice. I'm guessing many of you know exactly what I mean! Sometimes you just miss the idea of a food or a dish, but not really the food itself.

I've been on a collard kick lately, and decided a stuffed collard roll baked in some sort of sauce would totally fit the bill.  I got home from work and looked in my fridge and pantry. I saw a can of salmon, and that sounded like a good filling for my collard leaves. In the fridge, I found some leftover cooked carrots and celery I salvaged from a chicken stock-making project, an open jar of roasted red peppers, and a kohlrabi. That seemed like enough. So, I set to work.

This was a fun exercise in spontaneous measuring and mixing, my favorite way to cook. In no time, I had made my salmon stuffing and prepared my sauce, and it was time to fill those happy little collards up. So, I stuffed 'em, rolled 'em, covered 'em with sauce, sprinkled 'em with onions, and put 'em in the oven to bake. The result? Total success! And they looked beautiful. The bright green collards were striking against the vibrant, rust colored sauce; my spontaneous creation of humble leftovers and canned fish looked downright fancy. And it smelled really delicious and tasted even better.  Vegetarian and vegan friends, I think you could easily substitute tempeh or baked tofu (or some imitation-meat product) for the salmon in this recipe, and turn out something just as wonderful.  

I only made two rolls, but I doubled the recipe below to make four. One roll is surprisingly filling, and could easily serve as an entree item if served with a salad, cooked vegetables, cooked grains, soup, or something else.  These rolls would be delicious served with a side of garlicky, risotto-style rice. I hear that short grain brown rice, if cooked with extra water/stock (3:1) for a little longer than usual makes a pretty good cheat for arborio rice. Haven't tried it yet myself, but let me know if you do!  

Salmon Stuffed Baked Collard Rolls with Red Pepper-Carrot Sauce

yield: 4 rolls
  • 2 5-6 oz cans salmon OR 8-12 oz tempeh, baked tofu, or other meat substitute
  • 6 large collard leaves
  • 2 small or 1 large kohlrabi
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 celery branch
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1/2 c roasted red pepper halves/strips (about 1 whole pepper if home roasting)
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Drain salmon and put in bowl. If using tempeh, tofu, or an imitation meat product, decide if you want to have it in strips, cubed, finely chopped/crumbled, or whatever. Prepare it however you'd like, and place in a bowl.
  2. Peel onion, cut in quarters. Finely mince one quarter of the onion, and add to salmon/meat substitute. Finely slice remaining onion and set aside.
  3. Next, steam your veggies in batches:
  4. WAsh collards, and cut out tough portion of stem. Part of your leaf may be 'forked' at the end after cutting out the stalk - that's okay! Steam collard leaves for 2-3 minutes, or until softened and bright green. Remove, let cool, and pat dry. Reserve 4 of the largest leaves. Cut the other two in half lengthwise, layer, and roll lengthwise to make a cigar-sized roll. Then, finely slice through the roll, working your way from one end to the other - this technique is called a chiffonade. Add sliced collards to bowl with salmon and onions.
  5. Cut kohlrabi into chunks and steam until just tender. Finely dice about one half of the steamed kohlrabi, and add to salmon and collards. Place the remaning kohlrabi chunks in a blender, or if using an immersion blender, a large bowl.
  6. Add 1/2 c minced celery to salmon/vegetarian option, and steam the remaining celery and carrots until tender. Place steamed carrots and celery in blender with kohlrabi, and add roasted red peppers, stock, olive oil, and blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper, basil, and tarragon to taste, and blend again until well mixed. Set aside.
  7. Mix salmon/vegetarian option, collards, kohlrabi, celery, and onion, and add basil, salt, and pepper; stir until well mixed.
  8. Place one quarter of salmon/veggie mixture at top of collard leaf, fold in left and right sides, and roll up lengthwise, like a burrito. If leaf is forked at the bottom from removing the stalk, just try to pull the pieces together, layering slightly, and wrap around roll. Perfect! Repeat rolling process with remaining salmon/veggie mixture and remaining collard leaves.
  9. Spread a small amount of sauce on the bottom of an 11x7 inch glass baking dish. Place collard rolls in pan, and pour sauce over rolls. Toss remaining sliced onions in a little olive oil, and if desired, a mix of your favorite gluten free flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dry basil. Sprinkle coated onions over sauce and rolls, and place dish in the oven.
  10. Bake at 350 until warmed through and onions are golden, about 35-45 minutes.