Sep 19, 2015

Exposing My Underwear

My roots are very Southern. My father's family were from Lake View, South Carolina, my mother came from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her brother, my uncle who I was named after, had 12 kids, so their must be tons of my relatives in Chattanooga that I haven't kept up with. Oh man, I'll bet they're all going to come and visit me now that they know where I live.

Southern States of the United States
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I was born in Anniston, Alabama, when my father was a Captain in the army fighting the Germans in Europe. We moved around a lot when I was young, first to Sarasota, Florida. My father was in the hotel business, so after he got out of the army, we moved to places like Savannah, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, and finally Memphis, Tennessee, where I went to Overton high school. During those years I learned to love Southern food. Finally I went on to collage in Los Angeles. My father drove me out there from Memphis, got me set up with pots and pans in a small studio apartment near my collage, Art Center Collage of Design. He then said "good luck son", kind of like a sink or swim scenario. I've been swimming ever since.

I know, this isn't my usual post on Tasting Hawaii, but my point is that your roots definitely mold your taste buds and attitude about food. I'll bet there are a lot of folks who live in Hawaii that had their roots in the deep south like I did. Come to think of it, I'll bet there are a lot of Hawaiians on the mainland that miss the food here in Hawaii as well. I wanted to share a few of my favorite Southern recipes that I still enjoy here in Hawaii.

Southern Caviar  (Black Eyed Pea Salad)
This is a classic deep south salad, and one of my favorites. It's important to cut up the ingredients the size of a black eyed pea (except the garlic, which should be minced). This gives the salad the appearance of caviar... if you squint.

Ingredients for the salad:
3, 14.5 ounce cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeno
1 (2 ounce) jar of pimentos, drained
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh lime, juiced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Ingredients for the dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Add the salad ingredients except for the lime and parsley. Gently toss the dressing into the salad. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours before serving. Squeeze lime juice into the salad and toss with parsley just before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Sweet & Spicy Pork Ribs
I really enjoy Sweet & Spicy Pork Ribs served with Southern-Style Collard Greens and Iron Skillet Corn Bread. Most of the time ribs in the South were barbecued, but I like this recipe because I can cook it in the oven, and because most of the work is done the day before I serve it.

1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup honey
1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 large racks of meaty pork ribs (8 pounds), cut into individual ribs
1 cup water

In a small saucepan, simmer the beef stock until it is reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the oregano, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, crushed red pepper and cinnamon stick and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the honey, ketchup and mustard and cook over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and reduced beef stock and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes; let cool.

Put the ribs in 2 large resealable plastic bags. Add the sauce to the bags. Seal and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Transfer the ribs and marinade to a large roasting pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Add the water to the pan, turn the ribs and bake for about 1 hour longer, until the ribs are very tender and thickly glazed. Discard the cinnamon stick. Transfer the ribs to a platter and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Note: The ribs can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and reheated, covered, in the oven.

Buttermilk Fried Okra
It's easy to find fresh okra here on Moloka'i, because the Filipinos use it in their cuisine thank goodness. Okra is a vegetable you have to grow up with as I did in the South. Most people don't like okra because, depending on how it's cooked, it can get slimy, this recipe doesn't.

1 pound of fresh okra
2 cups of buttermilk
1 cup of plain yellow cornmeal
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
canola oil
1/4 cup bacon drippings, because my mother did it that way

Wash okra and cut off and discard tip and stem ends from okra; cut okra into 1⁄2-inch-thick rounds. Stir into buttermilk; cover and chill for 45 minutes.

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Remove okra from buttermilk with a slotted spoon, and discard buttermilk. Dredge okra, in batches, in the cornmeal mixture.

Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a dutch oven or cast-iron skillet; add bacon drippings, and heat to 375°. Fry okra, in batches, 4 minutes or until golden brown; drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with additional salt if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Southern-Style Collard Greens
Collard Greens from my garden
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Southern-Style Collard Greens, are a side dish served in Southern homes all year round. It's a traditional favorite for New Years Day as the greens are supposed to bring wealth for the New Year. Here on Moloka'i, collard greens can be hard to find, but I have found them at our farmers market on a couple of occasions, plus I have actually grown them in my back yard with great success.

1 pound of fresh collard greens, washed well and chopped.
1 large meaty smoked ham hock (at least 4 ounces)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of hot sauce or in Hawaii, chili pepper water
1 tablespoon of butter
3 quarts of water

Place 3 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Wash and scrub the Ham Hock well, cut into sections and add to the boiling water. Let ham hock simmer for about 30 minutes on medium heat.

Wash the collard greens scrubbing each leaf under cool running water until clean. Fold each collard leaf in half, either in your hand or on your cutting board. Pull the leaf section away from the stem. Discard stems. Stack a couple of leaves together on your cutting board. Begin at one end and roll the leaves up tightly. Then, cut lengthwise down the center of the roll. Squeeze the cut sections back together, rotate and cut the roll into about 3/4 inch slices. Add leaves to the pot with the Ham Hock pieces, a little at a time, let them cook down a minute and then add more. Reduce heat to a low simmer, leave the pot uncovered and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Chop the onions and chop or mince the garlic cloves. In a small saucepan on medium low heat, add the butter and let it melt. Add the chopped onions and garlic to the butter and sauté until onions are translucent. Add the cooked onions and garlic to your stock pot with the collard leaves.
Add salt, sugar, black pepper and Hot Sauce in amounts listed. Stir well. Let simmer another 15 minutes or until the collards are as tender as you prefer.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the greens and place in a bowl. Let the liquid continue to simmer.
Remove the ham hock, chop the meatier portions into small pieces and return to the liquid. Return the chopped collard greens to the liquid and stir well. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Cornbread goes well with Collard Greens. Some folks like to dip their cornbread in the "potlikker" or liquid from the Collard Greens, and eat it that way.

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An African cook in Atlanta is said to have given the name hushpuppy to this food. When frying a batch of catfish and croquettes, a nearby puppy began to howl. To keep the puppy quiet, she gave it a plateful of the croquettes and said, "hush, puppy." Since the name was cut, it stuck. This is one of my favorite southern recipes to serve with fried fish.

2 cups white cornmeal
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 cup milk, more if needed
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup cooked fresh corn off the cob (optional, but recommended)
canola oil for frying

In a mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients except the frying oil. Moisten with just enough milk to create a stiff dough. Drop the batter from a tablespoon into deep hot oil (350˚F) and fry for 3 or 4 minutes, or until golden (turn them in the hot oil several times). Don't crowd them in the oil. Drain on paper towels. Immediately sprinkle with salt. Serve hushpuppies warm with fried fish. Makes 2 dozen.

Iron Skillet Corn Bread
1 cup white or yellow corn meal
Iron Skillet Corn Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar (you can add up to 1/2 cup if you like it really sweet)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable shortening or butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons shortening or butter, melted

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, milk, and 1/4 cup shortening and beat with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth, about 1 minute. Grease a 6-inch iron skillet (or a heavy baking pan) with the shortening, pour in the batter, and bake in a preheated 425˚F oven for 22 to 25 minutes, or until light golden brown on top (be careful not to overcook the cornbread). Bring the skillet to the table and cut into wedges to serve. Great with barbecued ribs, chili or black bean soup. Makes 6 servings.

Note: For a moist interior and a nice crisp crust, put an iron skillet two thirds filled with water on the floor of your oven before you begin to preheat it. If you prefer corn muffins, grease just the bottoms of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or place paper baking cups in muffin cups. Fill about 3/4 full with batter.

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie
Ingredients for filling:
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons Flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of nutmeg
1 unbaked pie crust, make it from scratch or buy ready-made, like Pillsbury Frozen Pie Crust

Procedure for filling:
Place softened butter in a medium size mixing bowl. Add sugar. Mix well. Add slightly beaten egg yolks. Add flour. Mix well, making sure eggs are fully incorporated. Add buttermilk. Add vanilla extract. Add dash of Nutmeg. Mix well, until everything is fully combined.

Pour filling into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes or until center is slightly firm.
Remove from oven, place on wire rack, and let cool completely.

Note: This pie freezes well. If desired, use the egg whites to make a meringue for the pie.

No Leftover... 
Bourbon Pecan Pie
Bourbon is my favorite whisky, and pecans are my favorite nut, probably because I grew up in the South. Put them together in a pie and you have a delicious, decadent dessert, great for Thanksgiving, or anytime. Does this pie have anything to do with Hawaii, not likely, but you can buy all of the ingredients here, so why not make it, it's very easy to make. Best served warm.

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
3 large beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, toasted
2 tablespoons good quality bourbon, I use Maker's Mark
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, eggs, pecans and bourbon, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell, and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F, and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until pie is set. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Note: To toast nuts, bake in a shallow pan in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes or cook in a skillet over low heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

If using a store-bought pie crust, follow the instructions on the package for blind baking.

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