June is National Soul food Month, celebrating the heritage and history of the foods and foodways of African Americans and peoples from the African diaspora. The culinary contributions of this group had an indelible impact on the American menu.
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.”
So much of the mouthwatering dishes she created are the prized foods we consider soul food—collards, kale, mustard, and dandelion greens; cornbread, potlikker, ham, buttermilk fried chicken, sweet potatoes, tea cakes, chow-chow, red beans ‘n rice, black-eyed peas and so many good things to eat. Sure we can buy them, order them to carry-out or pick-up a convenience version of them 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 soulful dishes to the menu. Try cooking from scratch or scratch convenience, mixing in a little lagniappe* or something extra or creating 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.
MIXED GREENS WITH HAM HOCK
2 quarts water
1 ham hock
2 large cloves garlic, roasted
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 16 oz. pkg. frozen turnip greens, thawed
1 16 oz. pkg. frozen mustard greens, thawed
In 2-quart saucepan, combine water and ham hock. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Cover, simmer 1 to 2 hours, or until tender. Remove ham hock; chill broth, until fat can be spooned off surface. Discard fat. Remove meat from ham hock, trimming fat.
In 4-quart Dutch oven, cook onion in oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. In blender jar, combine 1/4 cup broth, garlic, vinegar, salt, and red pepper. Blend until garlic is minced. Add garlic broth mixture, and remaining broth to hot onions; bring to boil. Reduce heat; stir in greens and remaining ham hock. Return to boil; reduce heat, cover. Simmer 25 to 35 minutes or to desired doneness. Serve with chopped green onions and tomato, if desired. YIELD: 8 to 10 servings
Use fresh greens in place of frozen, if desired.