Soul food chefs share favorite recipes
BY NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writer
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
1/11/12 at 2:19 AM
For most, soul food means comfort food.
And for many, it means so much more.
Family. Survival. Heritage. Pride.
"To me, it is the way the food makes you feel when you eat it. It comforts you and makes you feel good," said Bernice Tharps of Tulsa. "What soul food means depends on who you are and where you are from."
Soul food showcases the talents of cooks who historically only had meager ingredients to work with, she said.
"It is a way to celebrate the food," Tharps said. "You just took what you had, made something out of it and shared it with others."
Tharps has won first place in both the meat and dessert categories of the Martin Luther King Soul Food Cook-off in Muskogee. And the Tulsa Public Schools employee will be competing again this weekend in the competition with her award-winning smoked pork roast and German chocolate cake.
"I plan on making the same thing this year because it seems to go over well. It is something that people look forward to," Tharps said.
She said that the pork, which she begins preparing a full day before serving it, also won first place from the Oklahoma Pork Council at the Tulsa State Fair.
Cassandra Gaines, organizer of the cook-off, said some soul food dishes include candied yams, fried chicken, neck bones, hot water corn bread, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie and pound cake.
"The reason behind the soul food cook-off is to keep the African-American culture of food alive," Gaines said.
Debra Mitchell of Fort Gibson has won awards in several categories at the cook-off, including vegetable, dessert and breads.
One of her specialities is greens that she either grows herself or picks wild.
"I use a mixture of collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens and something that grows wild in Oklahoma called poke salad. I usually get it at my dad's in his field," Mitchell said.
Using the homegrown greens gives the dish an "old timey" taste that stands out when compared to others.
"A lot of people nowadays have gone to frozen vegetables from the store and canned vegetables from the store. All the greens I have gotten I have grown myself."
It is the ultimate compliment when people tell her the greens - made from her grandmother's recipe - remind them of their grandma's cooking.
"And to get a comment from an older person in their 70s or 80s who says it is the best they have ever had, it makes me feel so proud," Mitchell said.
Mitchell has also mastered a recipe for pork neck bones and potatoes.
"To me, it is something that brings back the old times when people were without and they had to make do with what they had," Mitchell said.
"Cooking is just something I enjoy doing. And it does not have to be a holiday."
Here are two recipes from Debra Mitchell, one for zucchini bread and the other for neck bones and potatoes, as well as recipes we found for sweet potato pie and greens.
NECK BONES AND POTATOES
5-7 pounds of neck bones
4-5 potatoes (cubed)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small onion (diced)
1 bell pepper (diced)
1 small can mushrooms (pieces and stems)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1. Wash neck bones; place in large pot and cover with water.
2. Cook on medium-high with onions, bell peppers and seasonings until meat is almost done, about 1 hour to 90 minutes. Turn heat down to medium.
3. Pour juice off meat and put in a bowl. Add potatoes and soup to juice. Pour all over neck bones in pot, and continue to cook until potatoes and meat are done.
1 1/2 cups oil
4 cups sugar
4 cups zucchini squash, shredded
4 cups crushed pineapple
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 tablespoons baking soda
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups pecans
1. In large bowl beat eggs, oil, sugar, squash and pineapple.
2. Sift dry ingredients. Stir dry into liquid and add pecans. Pour into greased loaf pans.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.
SWEET POTATO PIE
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
2 large red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; 1 3/4 pounds)
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white, beaten to blend
1. For crust: Mix flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Process until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.
2. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Roll out dough on floured surface to 14-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold overhang under. Crimp edges decoratively. (Crust can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill.)
4. For filling: Pierce potatoes with fork. Cook in microwave on high until tender, about 6 minutes per side. Cut open; cool completely. Scrape potato flesh into bowl; mash until smooth. Measure enough potato puree to equal 1 1/2 cups.
5. Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400 degrees. Place puree in large bowl. Whisk in brown sugar and next 6 ingredients. Brush crust with beaten egg white. Transfer filling to crust.
6. Bake pie until filling is puffed around edges and set in center, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; refrigerate.)
- from Bon Appetit
BASIC COLLARD GREENS
4-6 bunches of collards, cleaned and steamed
5 slices of bacon
1 smoked ham hock
1 large chopped onion
Seasoning salt to taste
1 bunch of green onions (optional)
Black pepper to taste
7 cups water
1. Lay collard greens on top of each other (no more than 4 at a time); roll, and then cut in half with a knife. Cut even smaller if you have large leaves.
2. Line the bottom of a large stock pot with the bacon. Cook on medium heat until done, obtaining as much bacon grease as possible.
3. Add the water to the stock pot and the grease, and bring to a boil. Now add the 1/2 of the chopped onion, ham hock, pepper and salt to taste. Let mixture boil for 10 minutes.
4. Add the collard greens, other half of the chopped onion, and more salt and pepper to taste if desired to the stock pot. Rapidly boil for 45 minutes. Reduce heat and let simmer for 4-6 hours. Serve with green onions.
- adapted from SoulFoodCookbook.com
Martin Luther King Soul Food Cook-off
More than $10,000 in cash and prizes will be given away in categories of meat, bread, dessert, vegetable and miscellaneous.
When: 1-5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Muskogee Civic Center, 425 Boston St.
Tickets: Taster kits, $10.
Info: Call Cassandra Gaines, 918-684-6363, ext. 23.
Original Print Headline: Food with soul
Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459
Award-winning soul food cook Bernice Tharps poses with her sweet potato pie. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Soul food showcases the talents of cooks who historically had only meager ingredients to work with. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
"You just took what you had, made something out of it and shared it," Bernice Tharps says. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
"To me, it is the way the food makes you feel when you eat it. It comforts you," she says. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Debra Mitchell uses collard greens and other homegrown items in her cooking. "A lot of people nowadays have gone to frozen ... and canned vegetables from the store. All the greens I have gotten I have grown myself," she says. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World file
MIX IT UP
Debra Mitchell: Mitchell uses homegrown greens, which gives her dish an "old timey" taste.