Soul Food (with Recipes!)

Early autumn garden with tents to protect from frost

We’ve been having fun trying to find new and interesting ways to make use of all the incredible green stuff we’ve got in our fall garden.  Of course, we’ve done the soul food classic of collards cooked with salt pork, plus peas and cornbread.  I tried a quiche with duck eggs from S&S, mushrooms, onions, and cooked mustard greens, which was just mediocre.  We’ve been loving salads with raw mustard greens, which never would have occurred to me until my mom told me my grandmother used to eat them that way.  The mustard adds just a bit of spice to the lettuce, and is especially tasty with some fruit to cut the bite.  We also got some dill from S&S, and that opened up a whole new realm of salads for me.  Now I wish we were growing some.

We’ve been trading work for produce with S&S, and recently I helped them dig both yellow and sweet potatoes.  I scored six different varieties, with different colors, textures and flavors.


Digging potatoes

A gem unearthed

I’ve mostly been roasting or baking them, or using them in soups.  But my favorite is this simple dish (family may recognize it from our holiday cook book last year) that is the essence of fall.  It is officially called “Autumn Breakfast Pudding”, but don’t let the name fool you.  Its nothing like a pudding in the typical American sense (maybe somewhat like a bread pudding), and though it would be good for breakfast, I usually make it as a side dish for dinner.  I think it would be a great Thanksgiving dish as well.  Since it involves sweet potatoes, I think it qualifies as soul food.  The recipe is included at the bottom of this post (thanks to Rita Leon – I got this recipe from her ‘Mindful Eating’ workshop at Nob Hill Yoga in Albuquerque, and modified it just slightly – because I’m mindful that I like a little fat in my food).

A delicious mix of fall root vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruits.


Autumn "pudding" served with kale from our garden, cooked in chicken broth from one of S&S's birds, with stuffed chicken breasts (prepared by the grocery)

The plant that has been the most fun to watch grow is the broccoli.  The plants got huge, with foliage so dark it was almost blue, and then finally we spotted some little florets, which ballooned right before our eyes.  It looks like at least one of the plants is going to give us a second harvest as well.


Broccoli florets on the plant
Broccoli ready for harvest

We typically use broccoli in a stir fry, or sauteed in garlic, or simply steamed with a little salt.  But since we have so much, I decided to try a broccoli cheese soup.  To be honest, broccoli cheese soup is not one of my favorite soups.  Usually it is something I’ve had in a cafeteria – too cheesy, or too watery, or just kind of funky.  But every once in a blue moon I’ve had a really exceptionally yummy broccoli cheese soup, and I reasoned that using fresh and quality ingredients would make all the difference.  We really enjoyed this recipe, good with crusty bread or croutons, and little crumbles of bacon (which makes everything better).  This recipe is also below.


Broccoli cheese soup, served with crusty bread and a salad with mustard greens.

Most people I know wouldn’t eat brussel sprouts for money.  I think this is because they’ve never had them prepared properly – at least, that is what I realized about myself. Usually, cooked brussel sprouts are soggy, heavy and sulphuric; not even redeemed by a generous covering of butter and salt. But several years back, T discovered a recipe that completely transformed the brussel sprout for me.  It is time consuming, because it involves peeling the leaves off the sprout, but that makes all the difference.  I wish I had a photo of this delicious dish, because it would cure you of your bias against this nutrition-packed little veggie.  The recipe combines the leaves with lemon juice and walnuts, and became one of our favorite ways to incorporate a green into our meals.

Ever since, we’ve been trying to grow brussel sprouts.  This was a spectacular failure in New Mexico, where the soil was poor and the heat just caused the plants to bolt.  We tried again at H&M’s this spring, but the bugs and moles got them.  But we were hopeful that a fall mountain garden would be just right, and so far our plants are looking very healthy, though they haven’t produced yet.  We’ve just got little tiny spuds on each plant.


Baby brussel sprouts

T read recently that brussel sprouts can be notoriously difficult to grow, and really want rich soil. Since we just planted in a plot of former lawn, we’re not sure we gave them the ideal environment, but I’ve been looking for more good recipes just in case we have a bumper crop and get tired of the old standby.  T’s mom had just the right thing, which will also make use of all that home pressed apple cider I’ve got in the freezer.  We tried it out with store-bought sprouts, and loved it (again, bacon is the secret to success), although I think in the future we’ll peel the sprouts for this dish too.  I don’t have photos of this sprouts dish either, but the recipe is below.

Okay, so I’m not sure if broccoli and brussel sprouts technically qualify as soul food, but they do taste good and are good for you.  If you decide to try any of these out, let me know how they worked for you with a comment on the blog!  Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!


Autumn Breakfast Pudding (a variation on the recipe by Rita Leon)

1 butter nut squash, peeled and chopped into bite sized cubes
2-3 yams or sweet potatoes, chopped into bite sized cubes
2-3 apples, chopped into bite sized cubes
1/2 cup raisins (dried dates or cranberries would also work)
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds – I use both)
1/4 cup raw walnut or pecan pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons salted butter, cut into several small pieces

Instructions:  Mix the sweet potatoes and squash together in a casserole and dot with the butter (as a variation, you can also bake the apples, though I prefer the apples added in raw later). Cover and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  This can be done the day before.  The dish can be served cool or hot (I prefer hot), so if desired, let cool.  Mix in the apples, raisins, nuts and seeds.  Sprinkle cinnamon over dish and stir to distribute it well (as a variation, I’ve also used nutmeg, cardamom, or mace).  Serve.

Broccoli Cheese Soup (a variation on the recipe by Emeril Lagasse)

5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onions (can also used red onion or sliced leeks)
3/4 tsp salt (the original calls for 1/2, but I ended up adding a bunch more salt at the end, so I suggest bumping it up)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (black would probably be fine, if that is what you  have on hand, and will just have a different aroma)
pinch nutmeg
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (the original calls for 1/2 tsp, but that seemed minuscule to me – you can never have too much garlic – or bacon)
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used dried, because that is what I had on hand. Usually it is suggested that you  reduce the amount because dried is more pungent than fresh, but I like thyme, so I used the full 1/2 tsp and it was not overwhelming)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock (the original calls for 3 cups, but I thought it was a bit too watery)
16 ounces broccoli (1-2 big bunches will be about right)
3/4 cup heavy cream (the original calls for 1/2 cup)
1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar (the original calls for medium cheddar – but that tastes boring to me)
3 pieces of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
croutons or crusty toasted bread

Instructions: Melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium heat in a medium pot.  Sautee the onions until soft with the salt, white pepper and nutmeg.  Add the garlic and thyme, and cook until fragrant, about 20-30 seconds.  Add the flour and stir until well blended, about 2 minutes.  Over high heat, gradually add the chicken stock, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add the broccoli and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and puree (in batches in a blender or food processor, or with a hand held immersion blender). Return to low to medium heat, add the cream and bring to just a simmer.  Add the cheese and stir over low heat until melted.  Add the remaining 2 Tbsp butter and stir until well blended.  Correct seasoning.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with bacon crumbles and croutons.

T’s Yummy Brussel Sprouts with Lemon and Walnut (I can’t remember the source of this recipe, we’ve had it for so long, but it might have been Martha Stewart)

1 pound brussel sprouts, peeled and washed (discard the dense white center cores, just use the outer green leaves)
1/4-1/2 lemon, wedged
1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted lightly
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp salted butter
Salt and black pepper to taste

Gently sautee the brussel sprout leaves in the butter and oil in a large pan or wok, stirring frequently until they are just tender and starting to brown at the edges.  Add the walnuts and squeeze the lemon juice over the leaves, stir and cook for 30 more seconds.  Serve.

Brussel sprouts with cider, bacon, and pecans (A variation on the recipe from Bari)

3 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 pound brussel sprouts, halved, quartered, or peeled as described in recipe above
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Instructions: Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp and remove from the pan to drain on paper towels.  Add the pecans to the bacon fat and cook for about 1 minute or until toasted.  Remove pecans to drain on paper towels.  Drain all but about 1 Tbsp of the fat from the pan.  Add the brussel sprouts and stir to coat in the drippings.  Add the cider, and bring to a boil on high heat.  Reduce to low, cover and simmer until tender (about 10 minutes if using halved sprouts, maybe less if peeled).  Remove sprouts to a bowl without the liquid, add the bacon, pecans, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Serve.


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2 Responses to Soul Food (with Recipes!)

  1. katie says:

    I love, love, love all of these. I am going to try the “pudding” very soon and am fortunate to work in a grocery that has all of the required items in their fresh, organic, and often local form. There had to be a perk in there somewhere!

    At any rate, I also wanted to share my mother’s brussels sprout recipe. She prepares the sprouts by cutting off the bottoms and peeling away the first few leaves, then making an “X” with the knife in the bottom of each sprout, which helps them to cook more evenly (avoiding the sog-factor). She then sautes (did I spell that correctly?) the lightly steamed sprouts with butter (REAL butter, mind you) and purple grapes. It sounds weird, but the sweet v. bitter/salty and the cold v. hot aspects are very nice.

    Also, try adding your broccoli to casseroles. It’s particularly good with chicken and rice…yum! Oh…and I’ll be by for dinner…

  2. teeandzee says:

    All great tips, thanks katie! The broccoli with chicken and rice sounds especially good! I hope you enjoy the ‘pudding’ – there is something really satisfying about using local ingredients, no?

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