THE NEW YEAR TRINITY

In our family (as many families in my community), today will be celebrated with Hog Jowl, Collards, and Black-eyed Peas (although you might want to try the Three Sisters with some root vegetables). It’s one of the few days of the year my father (who is gratefully still with us and in remission) actually cooks (well, at least the Hog Jowl).

This holy trinity of the South supposedly brings us health, prosperity, and love (along with our famously thick waistlines). Tomorrow is (gratefully) another day and we will take care of our waistlines then…

Happiest New Year,
xoNatalie

GREENS & POTLIKKER from page 92, Alabama Studio Style
Serves 8

This classic Southern, poor-folk food is just about the best thing to warm you up on cool autumn days. Pot likker refers to the liquid, or “liquor,” that is left in the pot after the greens are cooked. This dish is traditionally served with a side of cornbread.

For parties and special occasions (as New Year’s Day), serve in your best china teacups.

4 slices of good, smoked bacon, diced (optional or use your Hog Jowl if cooking today)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil (if not using bacon)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or 1 teaspoon seeded and minced jalapeño or
serrano pepper
3 large bunches collard, turnip, or mustard greens (or any combination), washed, stemmed, and roughly torn or chopped into 3″ pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 8 cups water over  medium-high heat to keep it hot but not boiling. In a large stockpot, slowly brown bacon for about 8 minutes. Remove
from the pan and set aside, keeping the rendered fat in the bottom of the pan. (If not using bacon fat, use the oil.) Heat the bacon fat or oil, then add onion and allow to sweat for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir with a wooden spoon, being careful not to brown. Add the red pepper flakes or fresh pepper and then the greens in two or three batches. The greens will take up lots of room in the pot to begin with, but as you turn them over in the hot grease, they will begin to wilt.

Keep turning and adding fresh greens until they are all slightly coated in the oil and wilted. Be careful not to allow them to stick to the bottom of the pan. The greens will pop and sizzle as they release their liquid. Sprinkle in the salt and sugar, and continue turning the greens in the oil until they are all wilted and dark green.

Add the warm stock to the pot, stir, and cover. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve the greens and some of the liquid in soup bowls with cornbread (see opposite).

CORNBREAD OR “CORNSTICKS,” from page 93, Alabama Studio Style
Makes one 9″ round or 12 cornsticks

There is nothing more delicious than a cornbread muffin to dip into your pot likker. I like to make my muffins in a cast-iron pan with openings that look like little ears of corn, otherwise known as a cornstick pan.

1⁄2 cup rendered bacon fat, butter, vegetable shortening, or vegetable oil (or a combination)
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
11⁄2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 450˚ F. Distribute bacon fat or other grease among 12 individual cups of a cornstick pan or put in a 9″ cast-iron skillet, and place in the hot oven to melt and heat up—about 5 minutes.

While the pan is heating, in a large bowl, mix cornmeal and flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add buttermilk, and mix just to combine. When grease is hot, carefully remove it from oven, and pour all but about 2 teaspoons of it into flour mixture. Stir
the grease into batter, add egg, and stir to combine. Do not mix this too vigorously, or the bread will be tough.

Pour the mixture into the prepared hot pan, and place in the oven to bake until golden brown, with a crispy crust along the sides—about 25 minutes for cornbread and 15 minutes for cornsticks. Remove from oven, flip bread or cornsticks out onto a plate, and serve warm with butter.

P.S.: This post below on the Three Sisters first ran in August of 2011 – substitute available root vegetables for the okra and zucchini.

Last weekend, I finally got a chance to read my Gravy: Special Louisiana Edition, the Spring 2011 Issue of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Food Letter” to its members. (Better late than never!)

On page 6 of the downloadable PDF, you will find a story about – and a recipe by – Susan Spicer of New Orleans. Titled “Eggplant, Oyster, and Tasso Gratin: A New Sort of Trinity,” the introduction to the recipe refers to the “trinity of Louisiana cookery: onions, celery and bell pepper.” Susan, a “self-described eggplant freak,” created her own trinity with eggplant, oysters and Tasso – recipe included. (You will also find this recipe and text on pages 35-36 of the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.)

While I was reading about Susan and her trinity, I kept thinking of the Indian legend of The Three Sisters. If you aren’t familiar with this story, it is really just a beautiful explanation of companion planting told in story form. The tale explains that corn is planted on a mound and provides the stalk for the beans to climb. In turn, the bean vines embrace the corn stalk and provide stability. The squash planted on the mound shades it from direct sunlight and prevents moisture from evaporating. Native Americans encourage eating the three “sisters” together, since together they offer the elements to sustain life: the corn delivers carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash contains essential vitamins.

With this story on my mind, I visited the farmer’s market on Saturday and felt happily overwhelmed with the wide variety of beans, zucchini and okra. I started thinking of new ways to combine these foods. And while thinking on threes, the bowl of beans pictured above inspired me to come up with my own trinity that matches my new “clean living” philosophy (without eggplant and corn) but still provides nourishment for the soul.

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

3 cups fresh beans (any sort will do)
3 cups fresh okra
3 medium-sized zucchini

1 cup cooked wild rice
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked amaranth

1 bunch fresh onion (as much or as little as you like)
1 clove garlic
1 lemon

Cover beans with water and cook with salt, pepper, and spices just until soft. (I like to use Organic Gourmet Vegetable Bouillon Cubes to flavor my beans – which is cheating a little as they contain a tiny bit of yeast extract and corn starch. C’est la vie.)

Remove the heads from okra and slice down the middle with one cut resulting in two long pieces. Wash onions and remove outer skin. Place cut okra with onions in cast iron skillet, add salt and pepper and bake in a 425° oven until okra is brown and crispy and onion is soft. The onion greens will become slightly burnt during baking, but make a wonderful aroma that helps flavor the okra.

While beans are cooking and okra baking, slice zucchini into 1/8” strips long-ways (as my grandmother would say) and grill in a hot pan on the stove.

Mash your softened onion in a bowl, slice grilled zucchini into 1/2″ strips cross-ways (as my grandmother would also say), and combine together in a large bowl. Strain cooked beans from their water (you may want to save this for tomorrow’s soup) and add to onion and zucchini mixture.

Chop crispy okra into small pieces.

Ladle zucchini, onion, bean mixture over a trinity of quinoa, wild rice and amaranth. I used leftover rice and amaranth from earlier meals and tossed them together with quinoa, a splash of flax oil, lemon juice, finely grated fresh garlic, a tiny bit of sea salt, pepper and fresh oregano.

Sprinkle chopped okra over the top and serve.

Delicious.

(And will also be delicious with Susan Spicer’s Tasso when my detox is complete!)

P.S: If you are not a Southern Foodways Alliance member, you might consider joining, if for no other reason than to have Gravy – in all its printed glory – delivered to your door on a regular basis.

 

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