Friday, June 17, 2011

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 6 (Final Section)

Ed: And finally, may we please use one of the recipes from your book -your choice -in our book, or do you have another (newer?) one you'd let us include?

Mary: As soon as we published The Collard Patch we realized we didn’t put enough recipes of our favorite way to eat collards when they are tender: wraps. We published a little bonus e-book called Collards Notebook, which I will gladly send to anyone who asks for it. I cannot make it into a Kindle book because it has colored pictures illustrating the following recipe.
Wraps with Collard Greens

Collard greens
Flour tortillas (12" is preferred)
Tuna spread (Use any spread you like, or use meat and cheese. In Flavored with Love, I have included a unique tuna salad recipe.)

Preparing the Wraps
Begin with thoroughly washed collard leaves.
Two methods to wilt the leaves:
Dip them into a shallow pan of boiling water for approximately 15 seconds and drain them on paper towels
Wrap them in damp paper towels and microwave them 15 seconds or longer if they need it.
Second step: Fold the wilted leaves and cut the stem out. Try not to let the leaf fall into two pieces.
Tortillas are sometimes sticky. Warm the tortillas in the microwave 15 – 30 seconds, depending on the size of the package. Warming makes them more pliable – easier to separate and roll. Carefully separate the tortillas. (Tactic for separating the tortillas: work a sheet of waxed paper between them.)
Cover the tortilla with a collard leaf. The 12" size is the right size to go under a leaf.
Spoon a generous amount of the spread in a row on one end of the collard leaf and tortilla.
Too much spread will squoosh out the bottom.
You have two choices:
Make the wrap neat and skinny. You may need to eat two of them!
Make the wrap big and eat one.
A layer of Swiss, cheddar, or Romano cheese could be placed along the top of the spread.
Or if you are a spicemouth, you may want to add some jalapeño slices.
Wrap it tightly and carefully. Start at the side that has the filling on it. To reduce squooshing, you may want to fold in one side as you wrap it.
Toothpicks are useful to hold the wrap together.
Slice at angles or eat a whole one by yourself.

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 5

Ed: We have found that mustard greens are more popular than collards in many parts of Louisiana.

Mary: What I learned from interviewing people that some prefer one green over another. Many people like to cook two or three varieties of greens in the same pot. Such recipes are included in The Collard Patch.

Do you have any idea why collards are more popular in the Hill Country?

Mary: They look pretty in flower beds. Those big broad blue leaves look like expensive plants.

And here's another odd question, related to something written by a Louisiana writer: Have YOU ever heard anyone use the phrase "a bate of collards" (meaning a mess)?

Mary: No, and I couldn’t find ”bate of collards” on google.

Ed: I know from your writings that your faith is at the center of your life: so can you see any connection there with cooking collards? (I figure that is a tough one, so you can ignore it if you wish!)

Mary: This question is an easy one, Edward. We all know that the body is the temple of the soul and the Holy Spirit lives within the heart of every Christian. Add to this knowledge the fact (as documented by food analysis) that collard greens are one of the most nutritious vegetables available. What better way is there to take care of our bodies – and honor God – than to dig into a plate of collards?

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 4

Ed: Which unusual recipe has really made a surprising splash?

Mary:Dr. Paul Elliott, the co-author of The Collard Patch , helped develop the following recipe. We prepared if for food demonstrations. Tasters kept coming back to our table and asking for another little cup of it. It’s a mixture of south Louisiana gumbo, red beans and rice, and a mess of collards all in one pot.

When we appeared on Chef John Folse’s radio program, he raved over this gumbo. We call it Texianne cooking because it is what happened when a Texas cook and a Louisiana cook poured ingredients into one pot.

Red River Gumbo

1 cup small red beans
⅓ cup all purpose flour
⅓ cup olive oil
1 chopped onion (approximately 1 cup)
1 chopped green bell pepper (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups finely chopped fresh collards
6 ounces Richard’s tasso, finely chopped
1 can Ro*Tel® diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 cups cooked, diced pork or other meat of choice
2 tablespoons chili powder
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound crawfish tails
2 cups frozen mixture of okra, tomatoes, and onions
Salt to taste
Ground pepper to taste

•Soak the beans overnight, empty the water cover again with fresh water, and cook until they are tender:
•Make a roux in the Dutch oven by browning the flour in the oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, collards, and tasso. Stir and continue to heat. Add enough warm water to cover the mixture as it continues to cook.
•Add the Ro*Tel®, pork, chili powder, lemon juice, and red beans; keep the pot simmering. Add water as needed.
•Sauté the crawfish tails in butter until they are warmed throughout.
•After the gumbo has cooked until the vegetables are slightly tender, add the tomato-okra mixture and crawfish.
•Adjust the seasonings by adding salt and red pepper as desired. Simmer until all the ingredients are warm throughout and the flavors are starting to smell so good you have to eat it.

Sprinkle on some gumbo filé. Serve it over rice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 3

Ed: Which recipe from your book (it has so many! My wife and I like several) has gotten the most compliments from readers?
(Answer continued)

Mary: Many cooks don’t want to take the time to prepare fresh collards. Here’s a popular frozen collard recipe, which many health-conscious readers prefer:

Simply Delicious Collards

1½ cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups (1 pound) frozen chopped collards
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon basil leaves
2 tablespoons Splenda®
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
Salt substitute to taste
Ground red pepper to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

•In a large heavy pan or Dutch oven, heat ½ cup water with the oil until it is very hot.
•Add the greens and garlic. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
•Add the remaining ingredients and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Having said all this, I need to add that the first recipe in The Collard Patch is the world’s most famous. For years it was number one on google under the heading “collard greens.” Willie Crawford, famous Soul Food cook and internet marketer allowed me to feature this recipe – Awesome Collard Greens.

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 2

Ed: Which recipe from your book (it has so many! My wife and I like several) has gotten the most compliments from readers?

Mary: The key word in that question is readers. Here’s the one tasters rave over most. It has a few collards and plenty of other yummy ingredients. This recipe is not traditional.

Crawfish Tortellini Salad
½ cup thinly sliced green onions with tops
1 small jar artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup small fresh mushrooms
1 cup large pitted ripe olives
1 cup fresh red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
12 ounces frozen crawfish tails
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt-free Cajun seasoning
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1 teaspoon Splenda®
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt substitute to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 cup seedless golden raisins
1 package (14 ounces) cheese tortellini
4 ounces (1/4 cup) feta cheese
4 cups tender baby collard leaves, chopped
4 cups Romaine lettuce, torn into small pieces


•Place the first 6 ingredients in a big bowl
•Place ¾ cup olive oil in the blender. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and all the remaining powdered seasonings. Blend until it is well mixed. Stir in the parsley and basil.
•Pour the blended dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and marinate them covered at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
•Sauté the crawfish in ¼ cup olive oil and Cajun seasoning about 5-7 minutes. Even though there will be other seasoning mixed with the tortellini, each individual crawfish needs its own spiciness. You don’t want those crawfish to get lonesome. After you sauté them long enough to catch the seasoning, set them aside to cool,
•Cook the tortellini according to the package directions. Cook it al dente. Drain it in the colander and allow it to cool.
•Toss the crawfish, tortellini, and raisins with the vegetable mixture.
•When you serve the salad, place it over the greens. Garnish it with feta cheese.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 1

Edward, before you start asking me questions, I’d like to ask you a few.

Mary:Why did you write a book about collards?
Ed: My colleague John Morgan and I have been curious about several things: the decline of home gardening since WW2, and the unique history, botany and geography of collards as a leafy vegetable - none of the other vegetables have such an interesting background! No geographer has done a food study at this scale, since the South is such a large cultural region, so it made for a fascinating challenge.

Mary: What is the name of your book?
Ed: Collards and the American South

Mary: How did you go about writing the book?
Ed: This is academia so we were just doing research for small publications - journals you would never hear about, but then we learned more and more and a few years ago someone suggested we could have enough of a story for a book. We began in 2000 by interviewing farmers and gardeners, then as the project grew we ended up surveying agricultural extension agents, seed savers, grocery store produce managers, restaurant owners, seed store retailers, and even 11,000 college students! That last piece is part of a larger project about food in the South - not all of that goes in the collards book.

Mary: Did your wife help you?
Ed: Sandy is a big help in my life, even though she works also as a community college teacher. She did not work on the book, but I ws lucky to have her all along. For example, she allowed me to disappear on long expeditions for weeks at a time!

Mary: What is your book like? Please describe it.
Ed: You got a glimpse in the answer to the third question. It is going to be like a journey through ten Southern states, from Arkansas to Virginia, but with lots of history and agriculture and geography and economics and even literature thrown in, since collards show up not just at covered dish suppers but in novels, poems, songs, festivals, fashion shows, interior decorations, celebrity scandals, and even prison farms!

Mary: What is one of the recipes in The Collard Patch you and your wife like?
Ed: One of the casseroles - I don't have the book with me to remember the exact name of it - but it was a big hit at my family reunion!