Cooking with Lady Smokey: In Praise of Greens
Southerns sure do like their greens. Granted they may not be so healthy when cooked in pork fat but, greens are so good for us! Collards contain compounds that have anticancer and antioxidant properties, as well as sulfur which has antibiotic and antiviral characteristics.
As a child, my grandmother (Nana) always served collards and I remember my Mom eating collards with ketchup (gross!) on them, along side pinto beans. Because of this, I never ate many greens growing up but I have learned to appreciate their goodness as an adult.
Collards have to be washed extra well to remove all the grit. They take a little more time to cook than other greens. Here are three of our favorite collard recipes we like to prepare.
Big Smokey’s Basic Collard Greens
- 2 Tbsp butter (olive oil or bacon fat can be substituted)
- one small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- one large bunch collard greens (washed thoroughly, large veins cut out, coarsely torn)
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp Tabasco
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
Saute onion and garlic in butter on medium heat until soft. Add collard greens and stir to get them coated and then add stock. Sprinkle in Tabasco. Lower temperature to simmer. Simmer approximately one hour, stirring occasionally.
And this next recipe is one we adapted from an Edna Lewis recipe which we found in one of our favorite Southern cookbooks, The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.
Spicy Tomato Collards
- 2 bunches collard greens, deveined, chopped, and thoroughly washed
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups stock (chicken, pork, or veggie)
- 1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped with juice
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
- hot sauce for serving (optional)
Wash Collards well. Rinse. Saute onion in olive oil 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir. Add stock. Stir. Add collards. Cook partially covered for about half an hour, until collards are tender. Stir. Add tomatoes. Cook for another half hour.
And, here’s a raw recipe for collards which I found on the PCC Natural Market website, our Seattle market when we lived there.
Collard and Cabbage Slaw
- 1 bunch collards, stems removed and sliced very thin
- 1/2 small green cabbage, core removed and sliced very thin
- 1 large carrot, grated or julienned
- 3 green onions, white parts and some of the green, sliced thin on the diagonal
- 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine collards, cabbage, carrots and onion in a large salad bowl. Toss until well mixed. Combine orange and lemon juices, ginger, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil and continue to whisk until emulsified. Adjust seasoning to taste. Pour dressing over greens and toss until greens are well coated.
I recently brought home some turnip greens and came up with this recipe which we ate with a nice organic, grass-fed steak that Grant grilled up.
Turnip Greens & Potatoes
- 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ red bell pepper, chopped
- 4 small red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in small cubes
- ½ – 1 cup stock
- 3-4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 bunch turnip greens, thoroughly washed, deveined, and cut into small pieces
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion. Saute until translucent. Add garlic and pepper. Stir. Add potatoes. Stir. Once potatoes begin to stick, add 1 Tbsp vinegar and a little stock. Stir. Continue to cook, adding more vinegar and stock in order to keep potatoes from sticking to pan. Once potatoes are almost done, add turnip greens. Stir. Cook for about 15-20 minutes until greens are tender.
Leftovers were delicious (albeit, a little unusual) cooked with eggs the next morning!
There seem to be so many varieties of kale lately and it happens to be one crop that seems to grow well almost all year around in Tennessee. Kale is packed with many health benefits. It is valuable as an internal body cleanser, benefits digestive and nervous systems, helps build up the calcium content of the body, and may protect us from many forms of cancer. Because of all this, we tend to cook with kale quite often. It’s easy to add to soups such as potato or this simple sweet potato and coconut milk soup with curry I recently made.
Also quite popular as of late are Kale Chips. These are delicious. There are tons of recipes all over the interweb. I got the basic idea from a blog I tend to turn to quite often for recipes called, Smitten Kitchen. In her recipe post she also suggested crumbling kale chips over popcorn. This idea was easy for us to do as we incorporated it into our already amazing popcorn recipe which we got from a friend long ago. First, bake the kale chips…
Baked Yeasty Kale Chips
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or a little less)
- Nutritional Yeast
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 300°F. Thoroughly rinse and dry the kale. Remove the stems, cut into medium sized pieces, and place in large bowl. Toss with olive oil and then sprinkle with yeast, salt, and pepper. (Sometimes I even add a little garlic powder.) Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until crisp.
Once the Kale Chips are cool, crumble in a bowl and add more nutritional yeast and dried dill. Stir it all up and sprinkle over freshly popped pop corn! (We pop the corn in olive or coconut oil and then pour a little melted butter over, sprinkle with kale seasoning and stir.) Delicious! Any movie is better when you have this delicious snack.
Speaking of greens, we mustn’t forget good ole’ spinach. It makes us strong, right? I like to buy a big bunch of spinach to have in the fridge because it is so easy to throw it in any number of recipes. We often add it to our egg or pasta dishes, toss in soups or salads, and I even add it to pesto to help keep the green color and add more nutritional value.
Sometimes we saute spinach with peas and mint for an easy side dish and then tonight, Grant sauteed peas and spinach with garlic, chili powder, and some Chihoula hot sauce which made a perfect side dish for his famous Chile Verde Pork.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy spinach, though, is this simple Italian recipe below. Grant served me this with Shrimp Scampi and his classic Risotto Milanese for the first meal he ever cooked for me. I knew then and there that he was a keeper!
Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 bunch spinach, thoroughly washed
- 2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan Reggiano (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat sauce pan on stove. Add butter. Add garlic and pine nuts and saute until fragrant. Toss in spinach and cook until wilted. Add cheese, salt, pepper and serve.
One of our favorite side dishes and Jamie Oliver recipe is from one of his first Naked Chef cookbooks. This dish is so yummy with salmon or grilled meat. Leftovers are great, too, and can be added into your favorite soup.
Coconut Rice with Steamed Spinach
- 1 can of coconut milk
- sea salt
- 1 ¾ cups white Basmati rice
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce
- 4 handfuls of baby spinach, washed
Place the coconut milk in a pan and top up with enough water (or we often use stock) to cook the rice in. Bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the rice. Cook until the rice is tender, then drain in a colander. Pour a little more water into the pan and put it back on the heat. Place the colander over the pan and simmer the water to steam the rice, making it light and fluffy. Place in a warm serving bowl, add the soy sauce and olive oil and stir in the spinach. The heat from rice will cook the spinach in a couple of minutes.
Another way I love to add more greens to our meal is to make a green rice or a green risotto. All you have to do is prepare the stock you would use for cooking the rice by blending it in a blender with spinach, parsley, garlic, maybe green chilis or green peppers and any other greens you like. Not only does it add some lovely greens to the nutritional count of your meal, but it also adds yummy flavor and a beautiful Kelly green color to the meal.
Sometimes, I also like to buy New Chapter’s Berry Green supplement to add to our apple juice in the morning. I know we will get our required serving of greens if we have them first thing in the morning! And there’s nothing like fresh juice to start your day off right.
This past weekend, while visiting one of my best life-long friends, Angela, she prepared me her own version of a berry green drink! It went something like this… (She has a new Vitamix blender but I think you can make it work with any blender really.)
Angela’s Special Green Breakfast Drink
- Lots of greens (kale, arugula, mache, etc.)
- Toasted Flax Seeds
- Fruit (strawberries with tops, bananas, apples, beets…)
Place greens in blender. Add a little water. Blend at low speed for about 30 seconds. Add flax seeds. Blend. Add fruit. Blend. Drink up! Can be stored in glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
And just to be sure the rest of my trip was filled with plenty of greens, she gave me a couple travel packs of green blends! Bless her!
From greens to… dessert. There really is no appropriate segue so I will just cut to the chase. In working on my guest blog post for last month, I asked Dolan & Ali Marie to send me some recipes from Dolan’s Grandmom, Betty Hanger. One recipe I had heard a lot about was for a cake they referred to as, “Martha Washington Cake.” In that correspondence, they realized that they didn’t have that recipe and in fact, her cake was not even a true Martha Washington Cake but really more like an Angel Food Cake. They sent me this link which looked amazing and brought back a flood of memories.
One of my best friends from childhood, Noelle, grew up eating Angel Food Cake all the time. It was her favorite. I never really ever heard much about anyone making them from scratch, probably because they are so easy to find in most grocery stores. They are often used in attempts to make a “healthier” strawberry shortcake. As I began to research different recipes for Angel Food Cake, I called my Mom to ask if she had ever made one. She gave me a recipe from Nana’s cookbook and I whipped one up (those egg whites need lots of whipping!).
- 1 cup egg whites (about 7-8)
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 cup sifted flour
Preheat oven to 325. With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until super fluffy. Add the cream of tartar and salt. Mix on medium high for about 5 more minutes, until the egg whites are stiff. Add vanilla and almond and then turn off mixer. Add sugar by gently sprinkling in 2 Tbs at a time and then folding it into the mixture. Continue until all added and then do the same with the flour. Pour into a tube pan (ungreased) and bake for 1 hour.
Note: I read many Angel Food Cake recipes that called for cake flour and super fine baker’s sugar. I only use White Lily for white flour. I like the light texture which it has because it is ground from soft, red winter wheat, which has lower protein and lower gluten content. (I recently found this interesting NY Times article regarding White Lily change of ownership which I did not know about.) I thought my White Lily would work. I also don’t have a sifter and, in fact, my Mom taught me growing up that in most recipes, this step is just unnecessary. She would just flip a little of the flour out of the cup measure and call it good. I tried to find a sifter but was unable to find one so I skipped it.
As for the sugar, I use organic raw cane sugar which has a much coarser grain than even regular sugar. I decided to grind it in our coffee grinder and this worked perfectly. I was left with a super fine sugar. It seems the key ingredient with this batter is to keep it fluffy and gently handle it. I made an easy chocolate sauce (based on a simple one I found online from Emeril) to drizzle on top. It went something like this…
Easy Chocolate Sauce
- ½ cup half-and-half
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- ½ your favorite dark chocolate bar, chopped in pieces (I used Theo dark chocolate with toasted coconut)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
Combine the half-and-half and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat the mixture until a thin paper-like skin appears on the top. Do not boil. Add the chocolate and vanilla and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool. The sauce can be kept refrigerated for several days, just reheat.
And speaking of angels, Alison Krauss has a new album out called, Paper Airplanes. So far, it has received glowing reviews. Give it a listen!