by Charla L. Draper
The month’s celebration is a recent addition to the food calendar and we almost missed it. It’s officially in June, but we can enjoy slimming versions of traditional dishes all summer.
When Big Mama whipped up a family favorite back in the day, she stirred in plenty of love, a pinch of seasoning, and a dash of soul. When asked how she made it, most of the time her answer was “oh I don’t know just a little of this and that.” Now that is what I call a vibration cook—it’s more about how it feels when it cooks and the vibes she (or he) gets from the food. She just knows when it’s flavored and cooked enough.
There are two sides to this style of cooking. The food was fabulous and some of the most loved family dishes were created from vibration cooking. On the downside, the recipes couldn’t be duplicated and theses food gems were lost. They were lost because most of us (me included) were too busy doin’ our thing to don an apron and sit with Big Mama in the kitchen to discover her classified preparations and the ingredients that produced so many good things– like the flaky feather-light biscuits before the Doughboy locked them in the can.
And what about all those mouthwatering recipes we consider soul food—collards, kale, mustard, and dandelion greens; cornbread, potlikker*, ham , buttermilk fried chicken, sweet potatoes, tea cakes and more. Sure we can buy them, order them to carry-out or pick-up a convenience package at the supermarket, but they’re just not the same. Celebrate the month recognizing the heritage of these foods by adding your own version of Big Mama’s dishes to the menu. Try cooking from scratch or scratch convenience mixing in a little something extra or lagniappe** to create your signature recipe. It might not be Big Mama’s, but if you’re cooking with love, you’ll just need to remember practice makes perfect.
*The vitamin and flavor-rich broth, that is left after cooking greens. Potlikker is often served with cornbread.
**lagniappe-(lan-YAP) Used primarily in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, the word refers to an “unexpected something extra.” For example an extra doughnut, as in a baker’s dozen.
Traditionally sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas are hot dishes, try them in salads to add a cooling touch to hot weather menus.
Refreshing Sweet Potato Salad
If you like a sweeter flavor, use just 1 to 2 tablespoons of lime juice.
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 medium sweet potatoes, cooked and cubed
1 cup chopped Gala apple (about 1 med. to large apple)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries or cherries
Combine orange juice concentrate, water, lime juice, mustard, and salt; mix until blended. In large bowl, combine potatoes, apples, celery, and cranberries. Add orange juice concentrate mixture to potatoes, mixing lightly. Cover and chill several hours or overnight. Serve over lettuce, if desired. Approx. 6 servings.
You can personalize Refreshing Sweet Potato Salad with any of the following quick ideas.
- Top with pecans, walnuts, or almonds.
- Top with toasted shredded coconut before serving.
- Substitute raisins for cranberries or cherries.
- Stir in 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon of coconut rum.
Field Greens With Mississippi Caviar
3/4-cup cold water
1 glove garlic, minced
Dash of pepper
1 20 oz. pkg. frozen black-eyed peas
1/2 cup bottled reduced-calorie Italian salad dressing
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch long strips (1 cup)
1 medium tomato, chopped (1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped red onion
6 cups torn assorted salad greens
In 2-quart saucepan, combine water, garlic, and pepper; bring mixture to boil. Add black-eyed peas; reduce heat. Cover, cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes or until peas are tender. Drain.
In large mixing bowl, combine peas, Italian dressing, pepper strips, tomato, parsley, and onion. Toss lightly to blend. Chill several hours or overnight. To serve, arrange salad greens on serving platter; spoon vegetable mixture over salad greens. Approx. 6 to 8 servings