Tag Archive | southern cooking

Bring in the New Year with Soul Food

soulfood_complex_comSoul Food is a historic tradition amongst the African-American community on New Year’s Day. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s has been considered good luck for at least 1,500 years. Collard, turnip, mustard greens and golden cornbread are also good luck.  Eating soul food at 12:00am on New Year’s Eve brings luck. It is often said “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.”

Soul Food is a familiar term used for food traditionally prepared and eaten by African-Americans in the United States. Many of the various dishes and ingredients included in “soul food” are part of our Southern US history. The style of cooking originated during American slavery. African slaves were given only the “leftover” and “undesirable” cuts of meat from their masters (while the white slave owners got the meatiest cuts). Despite the “leftover” ingredients, southern whites have grown to love soul food as well.

Soul Food also represents the comfort of lovingly prepared, good food and the gathering of family and friends.

Today when preparing soul food, we use healthier ingredients for seasoning. Instead of “fatback” or “pork fat” we use smoked turkey or sausage. So in the coming days, bring a little luck to your humble abode, and indulge in the historically prepared comfort of Soul Food. Here are a few of my recipes to try:

Collard Greens
Black-eye peas
Macaroni and Cheese
Sweet Potato Pie


Shrimp and Grits

Although grits were originally a Native American food from South Carolina, today three-quarters of grits are sold in the south from Texas to Virginia. Sometimes this stretch of area is called the “grit belt”. Grits are made from ground corn, and are mainly eaten at breakfast.

I grew up on grits because my Grandmother was from South Carolina, and prepared them almost everyday. I always loved that grits was a commonly shared food in the south, filling the bellies of every race, gender, background and income. In 1976, South Carolina made Grits it’s official state food.

So today I’m posting a recipe with a little bit of southern history, and charm, because a man full of grits, is a man full of peace



2 cups uncooked white coarse-ground grits
1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 pound unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp (2 8/31 count) $
4 thick hickory-smoked bacon slices, diced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-size onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 green onion, chopped


Prepare Grits: Bring 7 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in grits; reduce heat to medium, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 hour or until tender. Add 1/4 cup butter.
Prepare Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein.
Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet.
Melt 6 Tbsp. butter in hot drippings in skillet. Reduce heat. Add onion, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add shrimp; cook, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and next 2 ingredients; toss to coat.
Sprinkle flour over shrimp mixture; toss. Add broth and next 2 ingredients. Cook just until shrimp turn pink, stirring to loosen particles from skillet. Stir in bacon and parsley. Serve over grits with green onion.

Grandma’s house

IMG0017Ahh Grandma’s house! She lived in a small white Cape with a small front yard, and a spacious backyard equipped with very large boulders that framed the property. We climbed them often. Marigolds and Begonias, and maple and oak trees loomed over the yard. It’s still my favorite place today.

Inside, the house was small and cozy, and always smelled like food. Although there was a kitchen on the main floor, we spent most of our time in the downstairs basement, which was completely finished with a full kitchen and bath. The middle floor had 2 bedrooms and a bath. Both Great Grandparents stayed in these rooms for as long as I can remember, until they died.

The living room was also on the main floor, only a few feet from my great-grandmother “Nana”, and it was there that I spent alot of time playing the piano. I would play Sonatina OP.36 No.1 by Muzio Clementi and Nana would yell from her room “B flat, B flat!” It was also where my twin and I learned to sing together in harmony. We sang at Nana’s church often. Nana and I were very close. The same piano sits in my living room today.

The house was always bustling. Neighbors came to visit all the time, and there was family that came from the south and stayed for months at a time. Relatives were always laughing and talkin’ real loud over each other. And there was always food on the stove cooking in a big dutch oven, or something frying in a big black iron skillet.

Grandma’s breakfast specialties included grits, bacon, and fried eggs. She kept a little stainless steel pot next to the stove that contained a very big secret…bacon fat. It was the base of alot of her cooking. It was used to fry eggs, pork chops, and fried chicken, and added to collard greens, and green beans. She made a “mean” apple pie, and I loved her biscuits, which I still cook today.

Grandma is 92 and doing well. I’m 3,000 miles away from her, but I always remember her voice and the little southern drawl from her South Carolina roots. Whenever she was ready to tell you something important she would take both your hands in hers and look you right in the eyes. Her words were always sweet and direct.

The love that filled Grandma’s house spilled over like a fever burning in my soul. My son only visited Grandma’s house a few times in his short life (he’s 14), but he said to me the other day….”When are we going back to Great Grandma’s house, I love going there.” . . .the fever of love still burns.

Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey Wings

With the arrival of the African slaves to the southern U.S. colonies came the Southern style of collard green cooking. Like many foods that originated at the time, this way of cooking greens grew out of a need to provide food for their families and satisfy their hunger with the scraps that were thrown their way from the master’s kitchen. Slaves were given ham hocks, pig’s feet, and the tops of greens and would turn these leftovers into a meal that created the famous southern greens. But they would keep at least one tradition from Africa – drinking the juice, called pot likker, left over from cooking the greens.

There are some superstitious traditions associated with collard greens as well. Every New Year’s Day those who believe in the tradition, or just like to play along, will serve up collard greens with black-eyed peas and hog jowl for a year of good luck and good finances. Others might hang a fresh collard leaf over their door to keep bad spirits away, and a fresh leaf on the forehead is said to promise a cure for a headache.

Collards’ unique appearance features dark blue green leaves that are smooth in texture and relatively large. They lack the frilled edges that are so distinctive to their cousin kale. Collard greens, unlike their cousins kale and mustard greens, have a very mild, almost smoky flavor. Although they are available year-round they are at their best from January through April.

Collard Green Facts

1. In a recent study, steamed collard greens outshined steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage in terms of its ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract.

2. Collard greens are a cruciferous vegetable (leafy green)

3. We get unique health benefits from collard greens in the form of cancer protection. The cancer-preventive properties of collard greens helps lower cancer risk, and contain nutrients that help three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body’s detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system.

4. Over 80 nutrients are found in collard greens

5. Collard greens contain a sulfur ingredient that helps detox the body

6. Collard greens contain antioxidants that help fight cell stress

7. Collard greens contain anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin K that help to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease

8. Collard greens contain Folate which is a critical B-vitamin for support of cardiovascular health, including its key role in prevention of homocysteine build-up.

Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey Wings


2 bunches of Collard greens
1 bunch of Mustard greens
1 fully-cooked, smoked turkey leg or wing
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 of white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 cups of chicken broth
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt, pepper


Remove the collard green leaf from the steams. Discard the stems.
Wash the collard greens several times in cold, salted water to remove the dirt and grit. Tear collard greens into bite size pieces. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat a Tablespoon of olive oil. Add in the chopped onions & garlic and saute until tender.
Pour in the chicken broth, red pepper flakes and smoked turkey wing. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for about 10-20 minutes.
Add in the collard greens. Cook on med-low heat for about 45-60 minutes or until tender. Do not boil the collard greens, let them steam cook.
When done, season with pepper and hot sauce if desired.
Serve the meat right along side the collard greens and don’t forget that you can drink the juice!

Courtesy of http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=138#nutritionalprofile