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Cooking with Lady Smokey: Eat Your Greens

Hello new year! Time to eat healthy, get organized, and start this year off on a good foot. Lucky for us, there are so many varieties of good fresh greens on the produce stand right now. Here are a few of our favorite current recipes for greens.

We are still eating a ton of kale. Who knew kale would get thrust into the culinary spotlight, ever? But it is. Many restaurants around Nashville even have kale salads on their menus. One of our favorite Tennessee organic farms, Delvin Farms, grows a ton of it and in several varieties, too. It just makes me feel good to eat it- it is so energizing! It’s super nutritious, too. We like it both cooked and raw. Here is our latest kale salad we’ve been enjoying. I came up with this one simply because these ingredients were what we had in the kitchen one day.

Winter Kale Salad
• 1 bunch Kale, washed, center veins cut out, and thinly chopped
• 1 Apple, cored and chopped
• 2 Carrots, chopped
• ¼ cup Currants
• small handful of fresh Parsley, chopped
• Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
• Balsamic Vinegar
• Olive Oil
• ½ cup chopped Toasted Hazelnuts
• optional- a small piece of Blue Cheese


Place the kale in a big bowl. Sprinkle with salt and gently massage the kale a few times. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Mix in the apples, carrots, currants, and parsley. Sprinkle in a small drizzle of vinegar and oil, season with salt and pepper, and then toss the nuts on top. Also nice is to crumble some blue cheese on top.

And then Grant came up with this next idea which is a new take on the old warm spinach salad idea. It was so delicious! This salad would be nice with a big baked potato or a grilled steak.

Warm Kale Salad
• 1 bunch Kale, washed, middle veins removed, and cut in thin manageable slices
• ½ Red Onion, diced finely
• 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
• Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
• 3-4 slices cooked Bacon, finely chopped (I used Cowboy Bacon)


Place the kale in a big bowl. Sprinkle with salt and gently massage the kale a few times. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Heat a small sauce pan. Add olive oil. Add onion. Stir and cook until onion is tender. Add salt and pepper and vinegar. Stir. Cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Drizzle over kale. Toss. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.

I have to admit, one of the only times of the year we make collard greens is on New Year’s Day. This year was no exception thanks to my kind husband who had the day off and cooked us up a mess of luck for the coming year. We had leftovers that we ended up eating over grits which inspired this next recipe.

Grits & Greens
Grits
• 1 cup Stone-Ground Corn Grits
• 3 ½ cups Water
• 1 Tbsp Butter
• ¼ – ½ cup Buttermilk
• 1 cup grated Cheese (I used Kenny’s Farmhouse Jalapeno Jack for this)
• Tabasco
• Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper


Collards
• 1 bunch Collards, cleaned well and center veins cut out, chopped into bite size pieces
• 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
• ½ White Onion, finely diced
• 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
• 1 ½ cup Vegetable Stock
• ½ cup Tomato Juice (I used the juice from the canned Tomatoes)
• 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
• 1 tsp Brown Sugar
• 4 whole canned Tomatoes
• small handful fresh Parsley, chopped
• 3-4 slices cooked Bacon, crumbled (optional, I used Cowboy Bacon)


The collards take about an hour to cook so go ahead and wash them well and prep all the ingredients. Place the vegetable stock, tomato juice, and vinegar in a bowl together. Heat a large iron skillet on medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onion and stir. Once it begins to soften, add the garlic. Then begin to add the collards, one handful at a time. Stir. Begin to add some of the liquid, bit by bit, as you add more collards. Reserve about ½ cup of the liquid so you can add more later in the cooking process as needed. Reduce heat to simmer. Begin to cook the grits.

For the grits, I use really good quality, old fashioned, stone-ground grits which you can usually find in nicer grocery stores, specialty shops, at an old mill out in the country, or online. I have found that the cooking instructions on the bags vary quite a bit for these and it all kind of depends on the texture you want, similar to oatmeal.

Some people like their oatmeal creamy and some like it thicker and slightly lumpy. I tend to go for a creamier texture for my grits but you can play around with how long you cook them, how much liquid you add, etc. until you find the right texture to suit you. Cooking instructions usually have you soak the grits in the water to allow the hulls to rise to the top so you can skip them off. I always omit this step, opting for a little more grit and texture.

Place the water in a pan on the stove. Add the grits and butter and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour buttermilk in a little at a time and stir, as the liquid starts to all be absorbed and get thicker. Once you get a nice creamy texture and the grits aren’t too tough to taste, add the cheese, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Stir. Total cooking time usually takes 30-45 minutes for me.

Continue to stir the collards. About half an hour into cooking, add the tomatoes, parsley, and sugar. Continue cooking on low until collards seem tender and the grits are done, adding more liquid as needed. Spoon grits into a bowl. Add a spoonful of collards. Sprinkle with bacon crumbles. You could even put an egg on it- instant breakfast!

And then there’s old faithful spinach. I’ve been thinking about that yummy spinach and artichoke combination lately… you know, mostly found in the form of a warm dip filled with delicious cream and ooey gooey cheeses! It’s the perfect food for bulking up for the winter blues. I wanted to move beyond the appetizer and turn this into a dinner. Here it goes.

Spinach Leek & Artichoke Risotto
• 2 Leeks, most of the green part cut off and the rest rest sliced in rings
• 3 big cloves Garlic, chopped
• 2 Tbsp Butter
• 2 tsp Olive Oil
• juice of ¼ Lemon
• 1 cup Risotto rice (I like Lundberg)
• 6 cups stock (I used homemade chicken from a leftover whole chicken)
• 1 raw Spinach, washed and chopped
• 1 4 oz jar Marinated Artichokes, drained and cut in small pieces
• zest of 1 Lemon
• Dried Herbs- Oregano and Basil (maybe 1 tsp each)
• small handful of fresh Parsley, chopped
• ½ cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
• Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Heat stock in medium sauce pan. (If not making your own stock, I like to add chopped onion, and garlic to spice it up some. For this risotto, I really liked the flavor of the chicken stock and by using homemade, there were little bits of chicken in there which was nice. You might even want to add some shredded chicken in.)

Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat butter and oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Add garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add lemon juice. Stir. Add rice. Stir. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it.

The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the artichokes. Stir. Add the spinach in, a handful at a time while stirring. Add the zest, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Add parmesan to risotto and stir. Let it sit for just a few minutes. Rest your arm from all that stirring. Serve.!

Don’t forget that leftover risotto makes yummy risotto cakes!!! Leftovers are also delicious cooked with eggs for breakfast! We just mix it all in the eggs. That simple.

We enjoyed this risotto with a bottle of Kris Pinot Grigio. It was a perfect match.


In thinking back on the previous year, I decided to make a mixed cd. It reminded me of all those hours spent making mixed tapes growing up. It is amazing how long that used to take. Its so simple now. As I searched our i-tunes on the computer to find all my favorite songs we listened to from the previous year, I was reminded of how much I love this Caitlin Rose album.

Caitlin Rose and her band at The 5 Spot. May 2010.


Caitlin
has the voice of a beautiful rare bird. Her critically acclaimed songwriting has already turned heads across the globe. And at the young age of twenty-five, she has her second full-length album on the way. Better keep your eyes (and ears!) on this woman.

I’ll close with this fun video for her song, Piledriver Waltz.

May your 2013 be filled with delicious healthy eating and lots of live music! Support your local farmers and musicians. They indeed make the world a better place.