Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine

 


I packed my lunch for work this morning. It would be the usual mix of leftovers from a dinner my wife and I had earlier in the week or something my wife and I made to have for lunch for the week. My lunch came from me opening the icebox and putting together a meal from the leftovers. This time it was a pork loin that I stuffed with fruits that were grown in our yard. I made the stuffing from pears, frozen and dried figs, apples, and peaches, chopped into small dice of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. I put a small amount of chicken stock, a half cup of chopped walnuts, and a quarter cup each of Spiced Fig preserves and Bourbon Peach preserves into a pot with the fruit and cook the mixture down until it was a fairly thick and dry and ready to stuff into the pork loin. The preserves were from last years crop that we jarred. A microwavable bowl with a layer of leftover rice, a slice of the stuffed loin and topped with leftover stuffing would be my entree for lunch. My appetizer was pimento stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon and the pimento cheese I made.

The standby for lunches if we don't have enough leftovers will be soup. It is a vegetable soup made from what leftover vegetables we have and fresh, frozen and or canned vegetables we have in the pantry. It changes weekly, a bean and vegetable soup, a vegetable broth soup or a cream based soup. My wife likes to make the soups, since that is her mainstay for lunch. After making a large pot of soup, she puts it in wide mouth canning jars, puts on the lid and freezes them. Wide mouth jars are freezable and easier to eat out of. She takes a jar to work and by the time lunch comes around, a few minutes in a microwave and she has a nice hot meal. A bag of crackers completes it.

The TV cooking shows are right to some degree, you can spend a weekend afternoon and prepare meals for the week. It doesn't take that long to prepare a evening meal if you have a well stocked pantry, have some basic go-to recipes that you can start from and plan your menu before hand.

Speaking of TV cooking shows, here is some bad news. The meals that are prepared on cooking shows are not the healthiest of meals. I believe it was because of high calories and large portion sizes. So people that cook the meals they saw on TV are heavier by about 15 pounds than people that just watch. And another bad thing is the study was only done with women. So like the saying goes, "Never trust a skinny chef."

As usual, I was doing some research on Alabama food, what was popular then and now, what was the influences and what is in the future. I found a list of food that were attributed to Alabama in a book, NATIONAL COOKBOOK: A KITCHEN AMERICANA by Sheila Hibben, Harper & Bros. 1932. This list has more than 22 items and some seem pretty straight forward. Potato Soup, Stuffed Squash, Corn Pone, Beaten Biscuits and Fresh Fig Ice Cream. Some, GOOGLE and WIKIPEDIA couldn't find. I found some in my copy of THE WHITEHOUSE COOKBOOK, Hugo Ziemann Saalfield Publishing Co., 1919. The Baked Oyster Omelet is something I'm going to try, I found a recent recipe which is easy, bake oysters, add to omelet. The second recipe comes from the WHITEHOUSE cookbook. It calls for a white sauce, cayenne pepper and chopped parsley. Sounds good.

Here are some of the recipes listed in the book, Rich Amelia, Fish Pudding, Methodist Biscuit, Curds and Cream and Aunt Sue's Snowballs. I'll stick to blogs, apps and Pinterest for recipes that I want to try.

I am going to share a recipe I found handwritten on a index card, written with an ink pen. You know the writing instrument used to write in ink before the ball point pen.

The card was in my 1919 printing of the WHITEHOUSE COOKBOOK along with a business memo note with a business name and telephone number for Long Beach California that only had 5 digits.

The recipe is for DATE STICKS. After the name of the recipe the person wrote Delicious. I am copying the recipe just as on the card.

DATE STICKS

Ingredients

3 eggs -- 2 eggs plenty

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of bread flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Dash salt

1 cup nuts (Broken)

1 cup Dates (chopped)

1 teaspoon vanilla

METHOD

1. Beat eggs till light & slowly add sugar. Beat well.

2. Sift dry ingredients and add.

3. Fold in nuts, dates & vanilla

4. Turn into well greased pan (shallow)

5. Bake 350 for 20 to 30 minutes.

6. Cut in bars and roll in powdered sugar.

I want to get back to the weight gain and watching TV story.

I don't think that the TV shows are at fault. It's the couch potatoes that watch the shows. You can watch a show that has moderate amount of fats and sugar in their dishes. But then if you sit there and watch the show and then go to your kitchen and prepare the dish and then have it for a meal later, you have most likely, not burn the calories in your coffee creamer you had that morning.

I say it's not the foods fault. Critics say there is too much fat, too many carbs, too much sugar in Southern cooking. There are a lot of calories from fat, sugar, and carbs because the people that were developing the Southern style of cooking, were hard working, poor and the menus spoke of what was available to eat. And they burned up those calories mighty quickly.

I guess it is harder to get people off their couches and start burning a few thousand extra calories working and exercising than to make them eat healthier food. I like my couch and would never trade Collard greens "pot lycker" for brown miso soup with tofu cubes!

But, there is always a but. Your health is very important and eating a healthy diet is one key part in maintaining you health. And there is nothing better than comfort food to help you maintain your sanity in the world today.

I found a few changes or "hacks" you can use to make Southern Cooking healthier. I won't say it will taste better but it will be better for you.

Let's start with catfish. To make it healthier, don't fry it, bake it. Add some lemon juice, maybe Cajun seasoning(watch for the salt), and don't let it dry out. If you want to fry it, don't use a cornbread batter, but a dusting of cornmeal. And fry it in a healthier oil like canola.

Next on the list is collard greens. Sorry but you can not cook them with ham hocks, bacon or butter. Watch the salt added to the pot and use red pepper flakes, onions and garlic for flavor.

Make barbecue pork with your own homemade BBQ sauce. Store bought sauces have a lot of sugar. Save the sugar for your sweet tea. A base of tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup is a good start for your own sauce.

Biscuits and gravy is for me the hardest item to change. Recipes I found used cashews and almond milk. I'm sorry but I'm not going to make my gravy with almond milk and cashews. I'll use turkey sausage in the gravy and use this recipe for the biscuits:

BISCUITS

Ingredients

1 cup Whole White Wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups milk of choice

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix together all ingredients.

3. Use an ice cream scoop with a release lever to scoop balls of dough onto a parchment lined surface.

4. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Note: I am not sure if the milk of choice in this recipe is like 2% or 1% or can you use soy milk or almond milk.

CATFISH WITH PECAN SAUCE

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds catfish fillets

1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sauce:

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel, no pith

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Lightly grease a baking dish large enough to hold the fish in a single layer and arrange the fillets in the dish. Add enough water to come halfway up the fish, then add lemon juice.

3. Cover with greased piece of wax paper. Bake 10 minutes for each inch of thickness. Transfer fish to hot platter.

4. While fish is baking, prepare the Pecan Sauce. In a small frying pan melt the butter over low heat. Add the pecans, parsley, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and lemon peel and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce is heated and the nuts are toasted. Spoon Pecan Sauce over the hot fillets and serve immediately.

Coleslaw is next on the list. It is fairly simple, don't use mayonnaise. I would recommend low or non-fat Greek yogurt.

Jambalaya is made with brown rice and turkey sausage. Don't use bottled hot sauce. The salt content in these will make you head spin.

And fried green tomatoes as you guessed are not dropped into a fryer or skillet inches deep in oil. They get a coating of flour, egg whites and panko. Then pan seared in olive oil.

Red beans and rice are not red anymore and the rice is brown. Substitute black beans, chicken or turkey sausage and brown rice for this dish. I you spice up your beans and find some andouille turkey sausage, this will be as good as the original.

Mashed potatoes is simple, use sweet potatoes. I switched to sweet potatoes long ago. When baked potatoes are on a menu and white and sweet potatoes are both offered, I get the sweet potato but with the toppings for the white potato. Not the brown sugar and butter they think everyone should have. The sweet potato is a complex carb. I just have to watch what toppings I load up on.

Sweet tea is the easiest of them all. There is not one sweetener that to me has that distinct taste of cane sugar. Just use a little less. Period.

Just to prove that there are other ways to cook catfish, I found a recipe from Nathalie Dupree's SOUTHERN MEMORIES for Catfish with Pecan Sauce.

She describes the dish as delicate and very simple.

So as you sit there in front of your TV, with some talking head telling you how to cook, remember that Chef's don't make mistakes, they invent new dishes. So get your happy self in the kitchen and invent something!

 

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