"Corn bread, black eyed peas, and collards are a New Year's Day tradition in the South - the corn bread represents gold, black-eyed peas coins, and collards match the green of US paper currency. Since leaving the South, where I grew up, for the Pacific NW, I've begun a tradition of hosting an open house-style brunch on New Year's day and this is my go-to recipe for this fun occasion."
Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat until butter melts and starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme and bay leaves.
Pour chopped tomatoes, vegetable broth, brown sugar, molasses, and liquid smoke into the pot; bring to a simmer. Stir in collard greens gently. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes.
If you're not planning to serve the collard greens with black-eyed peas, the white beans (or chickpeas) can be added at the same time as the tomatoes to make this a main dish, served of course with corn bread on the side.
Substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme for the fresh thyme if desired.