The election is over (for now) so let's eat, drink and be merry, as long as it's Southern.
I like the month of April. It is a great month to celebrate FOOD. April is National BLT Sandwich Month, National Grilled Cheese Month and National Garlic Month. The week of April 12th to the 18th is National Egg Salad Week. Just think of all the meals that can be fixed celebrating these items.
And don’t forget the food that has placed Southern Cuisine on the map. April 13 is National Peach Cobbler Day. National Pecan Day is the 14th. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake day is the 20th and two of my favorites, April 24th is National Pigs-in-a-Blanket Day and April 28 is National Blueberry Pie Day. Just preparing and eating these items should keep you busy and full all month long.
By the time you read this you may have missed the Alabama Chocolate Festival, April 2, in Rainbow City, but put it on your food calendar for next year. But you may make it to the 11th Annual Tri State BBQ Festival in Dothan, Alabama April 8-9, or make it to the 29th Annual Baldwin County Strawberry Festival in Loxley, Alabama April 9-10. And if you have to plan further in advance to eat and to have a good time, try the 31st Annual Poke Salat Festival - Arab, Alabama, May 20-21st. I miss Poke Salat. It is hard to find fresh and the last canner of Poke Salat greens filed for bankruptcy. But you can order seeds and grow your own.
Springtime is the time to get out of the house and enjoy the warmer weather and go to farmers markets for the seasonal produce. Cooking with the seasons gets you fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of freshness and flavor. And as I have said before, locally grown produce is the best: local produce is less likely to be damaged, uses less energy to transport, ripens more naturally and you support your local economy. If spring is late arriving or winter was not normal, your local produce will have slim pickin’s. But you are bound to find something fresh and yummy! Online I saw where asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, greens, and strawberries should be found locally. There is at least one item you can always find around here, greens!
So here I go again and coming up with a recipe that goes against conventional wisdom on how to cook a Southern icon. I’m not going to put the greens in chicken stock with bacon drippings, sautéed onions, smoked ham, sugar, salt and a splash of vinegar and boil until tender. I will never ever turn down greens if they are offered to me cooked that way. I don’t think I would turn down collards no matter how they are prepared!
This recipe removes most if not all of the salt, the fat, the meat and the sugar. I read many reviews of this recipe and changes people have made. Most changes were the amount of time the greens were blanched. I’m sure the time depends on the tenderness of the greens, how young the leaves were. This way of fixing collards works well if you want to serve them on a plate that has a breaded item or something you don’t want to be standing in pot liquor.
SAUTEED COLLARD GREENS
2 pounds of fresh collard greens
1-2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh lemon juice to taste
1. Pull the stems and center ribs from the leaves, and cut into 1 inch pieces.
2. Place greens in a pot of boiling water for at least 2 and up to 10 minutes. If greens are fresh and tender less time is needed. You still want them to have some body.
3. The next step is up to you. Either drain the collards in a colander and try to press out as much liquid as you can with a wooden spoon, or let them drain for a couple of minutes and place them in a tea towel and wring out as much liquid as you can.
4. Mince up the garlic.
5. Heat a cast iron skillet and add the butter and olive oil and heat until the foam subsides. Add the garlic and the collards and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Sauté the collards, stirring until heated through. About 5 more minutes.
7. Remove from heat and drizzle collards with the lemon juice and toss well.
And since I mentioned Pot Liquor, please if you have a dinner of the ground, please put the corn bread before the greens with their rich flavorful juices and don’t serve them with a slotted spoon. How are you supposed to get the Pot Liquor to ladle over the buttered corn bread?
Since I stuck my neck out with collards greens, I might as well break another culinary rule. And that is cooking asparagus in a microwave. If you want tasty, slightly crunchy and fast asparagus, there is no better way. I even saw Alton Brown “steam” asparagus in a microwave on his TV show. This recipe has appeared everywhere and this is my version.
1 pound asparagus
Italian Salad Dressing
1. I prefer a glass baking dish.
2. Cut or break off the hard stem part from the bottom of the asparagus stalks. Spread out three or four paper towels and lay out the asparagus. Loosely roll up the paper towels and place in the baking dish. Dampen the towels with about ¼ cup of water.
3. Place the dish in microwave and heat on high for about 3 minutes.
4. Carefully remove the bundle from dish, unwrap and remove paper towels and then place the asparagus back into the dish.
5. Drizzle about a ¼ cup of your favorite Italian Dressing over the asparagus.
6. Place back into microwave about 1 or 2 minutes longer, until asparagus is tender.
7. Arrange on serving plate and serve.
Steaming is a good way of cooking vegetables. They don’t get water logged as with boiling. They can retain their color better. And, yes it is healthier than some other methods.
Now is the time when to go on an adventure and follow the Alabama Food Trails. Did you know there are Food Trails in Alabama? There’s a Golf Trail, so why not Food. The Alabama Tourism Department has named five trails, and they say to “Use our trails as a guide for your next culinary adventure.”
We are in the middle of the Alabama Heartland Trail, going from Selma to Auburn and down to Fort Deposit and Greenville and up to Clanton and Bessemer. From their lists of trails, you can decide where you want to go for National Peach Cobbler Day and for National Pecan Day.
If you take the Lower Alabama Trail, you can stop in Monroeville and find a spot to celebrate National BLT Sandwich Month and go to Mobile to celebrate National Chocolate-Covered Cashews Day.
The Coastal Cuisine Trail hits the hotspots for Alabama seafood in Gulf Shores, Point Clear and Orange Beach.
If you take the Trails, you can be that much closer to eating all “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die”.
Look on www.ilovealabamafood.com and you will find the places that deserve our support. Let’s eat in Alabama.
Please see other “sweet tooth” recipes on the pdf of this paper.