Spicy Southern Collard Greens

collards

 

Lately I’ve been asked by several people, how to cook fresh greens, specifically kale and collards. I’ve already posted some kale recipes, so today I’ll share how I cook collard greens. One of the advantages of a grandmother that was raised in the country was learning how to cook all the vegetables that grew in the family garden. This recipe for collards is a little spicy, but that’s how I like mine, so if you want something with less kick, just let me know and I’ll share another recipe. This serves approximately 10 servings out of 1 pound of collards.

  • 2 qts chicken stock (can be canned, homemade or made from bouillon cube)
  • 1# collards, washed, stems removed and leaves chopped (you can eat the stems, however I tend to only eat the stem that’s near the leafy part as the stalk can be quite woody)
  • 1/4# (4oz) Applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

In a dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp over medium heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve. In the bacon grease over medium/low heat, sweat the onions until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrent, 2-3 minutes. Add the collard greens and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock, seasonings, tomatoes, sugar and the cooked bacon. Cook the collard greens over medium heat at a slow boil for 45 minutes to 1 hour and enjoy. Country folk call the liquid in the pot, pot liquor, and they crumble their cornbread up in it. I realize cooking the greens this long really cooks out a lot of the nutrients, so if you’re shooting for the vitamin factor, you can eat the greens after 20-30 minutes, but for a true Southern style pot of greens, you want to cook them to death. That’s when the flavors blend for the real deal.

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Crawfish Corn Chowder

crawfish

 

The weather here in Alabama has been unusually cold lately, with temps in the low teens and snow and ice. You may have experienced it, or seen on the national news, how the people in the south can’t deal with the winter weather, because we usually have temps in the 60’s on Christmas day. I’ve also been working a lot lately, especially with catered events, so it was extremely welcoming to come home after a long weekend of catering, on a cold night and find a pot of this delicious chowder cooking on the stove. If you love crawfish you should give this a try. Crawfish tails can be purchased at most supermarkets in the South. Around here, Publix carries them in the freezer section of their seafood department for about $12 a pound. It’s also a little spicy with the poblano pepper, so if you prefer your food a little less “warm” you may want to substitute a jalapeno for the poblano. The recipe has a list of ingredients, but it’s extremely easy to put together.

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups diced onion, preferably a sweet onion like a Vidalia
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped poblano pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 1 quart seafood stock (can be bought at your grocery store)
  • 1-16oz bag of frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into small cubes
  • 1-15oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-8oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 pound crawfish tails, thawed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning (a blend sold on the spice aisle)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil and the butter, letting the butter melt. Add the onion, celery, pepper and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions and celery are tender. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and stock, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the corn, potatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, crawfish, bay leaves, thyme, salt, Cajun seasoning and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaves and add the fresh chopped parsley.

Serve with a good crusty bread and a nice glass of wine. Makes about 10 servings.

 

Beef Medallions Marsala

Today was the first day of the next chapter of my career. After several years in corporate dining, I’m making a move to campus dining and will be starting my new position as executive chef for a local university next week. This week I’m going to relax and clear my head. So what did I do on my first day of this head-clearing vacation? I vacuumed the house, cut the grass and vacuumed and washed the RV for a little camping trip with my Mom I’m heading out on tomorrow.

I haven’t done any weekly shopping in two weeks, except for trips to the local farmer’s market the past two weekends, so dinner tonight is a real “chopped” mystery basket of ingredients on hand in the frig, pantry or freezer and since I’m overdo for a blog post I decided to share tonight’s dinner recipe with you. Although I’m using up ingredients already on hand, you could easily pick these items up at Publix. The medallions can be served over a number of starches, or with a potato on the side. I’ve got some leftover white rice from seafood gumbo I made last weekend, so that’s what we are having with ours.

beefmarsala

  • 2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes about 1-1/2″ square
  • 2 tbsp flour seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of heirloom mixed color baby carrots (or you can just get a bunch of carrots at Publix with the tops attached, although you trim off the tops)
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock (I made mine from “better than bouillion” beef base)
  • 3 bay leaves

In a large dutch oven (one that has a lid), heat the oil. Dredge the beef medallions in flour and brown in dutch oven over medium high heat. Turn to brown all sides, then add the onion, carrots and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes. Add the garlic. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala wine, then add the tomato paste, beef stock and bay leaves. Cover with the lid and pop into a 400F oven for 30-40 minutes. Serve over pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, etc or serve with starch on the side.

Zero Points Cabbage Soup

cabbagesoup

 

Lately I’ve been watching my “middle age spread” get further and further out of control, so when a few customers at work asked that I prepare a light selection each day I decided to dust off some of the recipes I’ve cooked in the past. When I was the chef at The Birmingham News, I would offer a regular entree each day and a Weight Watchers entree because so many of the staff were following the plan. That’s where I first tried this delicious soup. I’ll admit the name doesn’t conjure up images in my head of a tasty dish, but this soup is pure delicious. Now my current customers are asking for the recipe so here’s my version of the famous Cabbage Soup (from the Cabbage Soup diet). This is also the same recipe for the ZERO POINTS soup promoted in Weight Watchers. Yes, you can eat all of this soup you want for any meal and have no points added to your daily total.

  • 3 cups non-fat beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked cabbage
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the easiest part. Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer on the stove 15 minutes.

Luck & Money Soup

luck_money soup

 

A new year is fast approaching and with every new year I’m reminded of my grandmother requiring us to eat peas (for luck in the new year) and greens (for money). She served her peas and greens as sides to a big country meal. Lately, I’ve been incorporating mine into a one-dish meal so I don’t start the new year off with a dinner loaded with butter, buttermilk, starchy creamed corn, fried pork chops, etc.

So as this day before New Year’s Eve draws to a close, I’m about to drag out my faithful Le Creuset covered dutch oven (mine’s not fancy, I bought it at the thrift store) and soak the peas overnight. If you don’t have time to soak the peas, use the trick I use at work. Bring water to a boil on the stove over high heat. Pour in the peas and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. Pour through a colander and rinse peas well. Then add back to the pot and proceed with the recipe. This works for any type of dried bean or pea but you may have to cook the dish a little longer than the recipe says to get your peas nice and tender.

  • 2 cups dry black eyed peas, picked and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large rib celery minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner, or 1 smoked ham hock (available in the meat department of any grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped fine
  • 1/2# ham, diced (I usually use leftover from Christmas if any is still left)
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar

If time allows, put rinsed peas in a stock pot and cover with water (allow about 2″ above the peas). Cover pot and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have time, look at my hint above, or you can use canned peas.

In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, heat canola oil to medium high temperature. Add the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery, garlic and carrot and saute for 2-3 minutes more, until garlic is fragrant but not browned.

To the vegetables, add the peas, chicken broth, ham bone or hock, thyme, bay leaves, collards and the diced ham. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Once the peas are tender, remove the ham bone or hock and the bay leaves. Get any meat left on the bone or hock and return it to the pot of soup. With a large spoon, mash some of the peas against the side of the pot (I usually mash about 1/3 of them) and this will develop a creamy texture to your soup and thicken it slightly.

Just prior to serving, stir in the cider vinegar. Serve in bowls with a piece of cornbread. If desired, you can serve over cooked white rice for a more filling meal.

Serves about 8, or plenty for dinner with leftovers for lunch!

White Bean Chili with Swiss Chard

There’s a chill in the air tonight and I wanted a pot of chili. Only problem is, I didn’t have the correct ingredients to make a pot, but I did have an assortment of “other” ingredients on hand so I decided to make a white bean chili. The white beans, known as Cannellini beans, are just white (or rather a creamy beige color) kidney beans, sold in the can by many brands (the ones I bought are Bush’s). Some people make a chili like this with chicken or ground turkey but the chicken I had was frozen and no ground turkey in the house. I did however have some chicken Italian sausage I picked up at Target, so that’s how I’m making it tonight. Here’s the recipe in case you want to give this one a try!

 

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves removed from stems. Stems chopped like celery and leaves chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cans Cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chicken stock base
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 package chicken Italian sausage sliced thin

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and chard stems and saute until tender, add the chopped chard leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the white wine and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the minced garlic, beans and tomatoes. Add the water and the chicken stock base (or vegetable stock base, both sold in supermarkets on the bouillon cube aisle), then season with the cumin powder. Add the Italian sausage and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. I usually cover the pot but vent the lid so some of the moisture will evaporate and the chili will thicken.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Mushrooms Au Gratin

Thanks to Betty Crocker, most people associate the words “au gratin” with cheese sauce, but in the culinary world, au gratin is a cassoulet with a browned crust on top, usually breadcrumbs and cheese. This recipe is delicious but not low fat. It’s great with a grilled steak or a beef tenderloin so it’s usually a dish I reserve for dinner parties or holiday gatherings. Nothing like a nice piece of beef tenderloin with this dish and some truffled mashed potatoes to impress your friends and guests! If you love mushrooms like I do, give this one a try!

  • 3 pounds sliced crimini mushrooms (sold in grocery stores as Baby Bells)
  • 1 pound thinly sliced red onion
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 8oz butter, quartered and melted
  • 8oz heavy cream
  • 8oz Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a baking dish with PAM. Add one layer of mushrooms to the bottom of the dish. Top with 1 layer of onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with some parsley. Drizzle with 2oz of melted butter and 2oz of cream. Repeat the layers 3 more times. Top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is golden brown.

 

Garden Vegetable Breakfast Casserole

 

About this time of year, anyone with a back yard garden is looking for creative ideas to use up the abundance of zucchini, fresh tomatoes and herbs. Here’s a wonderful Saturday morning recipe for breakfast casserole, loaded with color straight from the back yard and a perfect recipe for a brunch. This makes for 12 servings, so cut it down as needed for a smaller family.

  • 1 12oz package of bacon, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 eggs lightly beaten
  • 4 cups frozen hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 2 fresh zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp Tabasco sauce

In a saute pan, cook the bacon and onion until the onion is tender and the bacon has browned.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the hashbrown potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes and toss well. Add the bacon and onions along with the pan drippings to the potato-vegetable mixture, then mix in the cheeses, Tabasco, beaten eggs and the fresh basil.

Spoon mixture into a 9″x13″ glass baking dish sprayed lightly with PAM. At this point I usually salt and pepper the top of the casserole as well.

Bake in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes, until casserole has “set” and is just beginning to brown.

Serves 12 but can easily be cut down to 6 or 4 by equally dividing the ingredients.

California Swiss Casserole

 

At work, I feed about 400 people each day and I try to have as little repetition as possible in my vegetables during the week, so I have to get creative and come up with different, less common recipes. The inspiration for this casserole came from one of my grandmothers, who always made her broccoli casserole with Swiss cheese. This is more of a “mixed vegetable” casserole. If you don’t have the fresh vegetables on hand, you can substitute 2 bags of California Blend mixed vegetables, available frozen at most supermarkets. That’s where the name of this recipe comes from.

California blend is a common foodservice vegetable blend of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots that I’m sure you’ve had, or seen, at catered dinners, luncheons, etc. Usually, the vegetable blended bags contain “less than superior” cuts of vegetables with a lot of stalk and stem, so I try to make this with fresh vegetables whenever I have time to plan ahead.

  • 2 heads broccoli, chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 1# bag of baby carrots
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 can Cream of Celery soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced onions
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 cup French Fried Onion pieces (like you put on a green bean casserole)

Cook broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in a pot of lightly salted simmering water for 10 minutes or until tender but still colorful. Drain. Add the onions and Swiss cheese to the vegetables.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, flour, soup, milk, melted butter, sour cream, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and mix well. Fold in the vegetables.

Spoon mixture into a lightly greased (I spray with PAM) 9″x13″ pyrex baking dish.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, then sprinkle with the French fried onions and bake 10 minutes more, until casserole is bubbly and onions are browned.

 

Bacon Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but work has been terrible lately and my creativity has been zapped by the time I get home!

At the local street market this past week, we picked up some cute little patty pan squash, so for dinner tonight, I decided to stuff and bake them. There are several ways you can stuff squash.. with vegetables, rice, meats, you name it, but since I was cooking these as a side dish, I went easy on the filling. Many people see these squash but have no idea what to do with them, so give this recipe a try if you’ve got some patty pan laying around.

  • 4 small patty pan squash
  • 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup PANKO breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

In a small glass baking dish, add 2 tbsp olive oil and set aside. Prep the squash by cutting the top 1/4 off (reserving tops), then using a melon baller, scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4″ all around. Finely chop the squash centers.

In a saute pan, cook the chopped bacon until brown and slightly crisp. To the bacon, add the onion and squash and cook 4-5 minutes, until onion and squash are tender. Add the wine, garlic powder, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute more, deglazing the pan.

Pour vegetable mixture into a bowl and add the PANKO, chopped spinach and Asiago cheese. Toss well to combine. Spoon breadcrumb/vegetable mixture evenly into the patty pan squash “cups”. Place the saved tops back on the squash (to keep the stuffing from getting too brown while it bakes). Bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes.