Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.  “I Have a Dream” 1963

            On January 15, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.  To any American child, this is often a day for celebration – mainly because kids get the day off of school.  But between the snowball fighting and the cartoon watching, King’s legacy often is lost.  While this generation has grown up with the first African-American president, Barack Obama, we are mainly behind the age of “African-American” firsts – and that’s a good thing.
            But for many adults, Martin Luther King, Jr. is branded into our minds.  We followed his crusades in Selma.  We protested against segregation.  We heard his speeches.  We marched against poverty. We mourned his assassination.  And in a day and age where injustice still reigns in many parts of the world, we need him now more than ever.
            I don’t think I need to say much more. King speaks for himself and is a constant reminder of whatever values we hold, whether it be for the environment, poverty or human rights, we must fight for them.  No one else will do the job for us.


            For 19th century African-American slaves, greens were often supplement to their nutritionally poor diets.   Beet tops, collards, kale, and mustard greens were either discarded by plantation owners or able to grow in the poor soil given to slaves.  If anything, 19th century African-Americans have much to tell the 21st century about eating habits.  Nothing was wasted and if it could be eaten, it was.   Delicious food does not have to be costly, just made with imagination and heart.  And that is the true test of a good cook.

3-4 bunches of assorted greens (kale, cavalo nero, mustard or beet greens, etc.)
1 1/2 c. chopped onions
1/2 head of garlic, minced
2 qt. water or chicken stock
1-2 pds. of smoked meat (ham hocks, smoked turkey wings, andouille sausage, etc.)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. filé powder - optional (see note)
cayenne pepper
dried or granulated garlic
hot sauce

1.     Rinse greens well – about 2 or 3 times.(they often have bits of sand and grit embedded in them).  Trim large center stems (they are too fibrous for consumption) from larger leaves.  Stacking about 5 or 6 leaves together, roll into a cylinder and chop across into 1-inch ribbons (this is technically called a chiffonade).
2.     In a large pot (12 qt. or bigger), combine greens, onions, garlic, liquid (stock or water), smoked meat in a pot and bring to a rolling boil.  Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3.     Remove ham hocks (if using) and cut away skin.  If using other types of meat, remove from the pot and chop coarsely and return to the pot.  Add thyme and filé powder (if using).  Season with salt, cayenne pepper, dried garlic and hot sauce to taste.
4.     Continue to cook until greens are tender.  Can be served with or without pot-liquor (cooking liquid).
Note: Filé powder, often used in Cajun cooking, consists of ground sassafras leaves.  It can be found at Kalustyans, Whole Foods or other specialty stores.

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