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Let's Celebrate Our Black Culinary Heritage!

Yes, it's Black History Month, which is the perfect time to remind us of the wonderful foods that come out of our Black Culinary Heritage. There are many popular dishes that are found in restaurants around the country-that got their humble start in the Deep South states of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

My family's roots are firmly entrenched in the Mississippi Delta. There I grew up eating the foods cultivated by West African slaves, brought over during the transatlantic Slave Trade. Foods using ingredients like field peas, turnip and mustard greens, rice, okra and sorghum, which I enjoyed in dishes that I still cook today.

In honor of Black History Month and as a way to celebrate our Black culinary heritage, I am sharing some of my favorite recipes from the Deep South, brought to America by my enslaved African ancestors. An as a professional chef, I have but my modern spin on them.

Collard Greens Salad

Brighten up your winter and your greens with a splash of apple cider vinegar and a drizzle of

decadent pecan oil.

Yields about 6 serving


1 large of bunch collard greens, rinsed, about 8 cups cut (see below)

¼ cup pecan oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon sea salt

¼ cup + 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon local honey

3 cloves raw garlic, minced, about 1 tablespoon

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional


1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, about 1 cup

1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced, about ½ cup


De-stem the collard green leaves, roll into a tight cylinder, and slice the rolled collard greens into

long strips.

Place strips in a large bowl. Pour oil on collard greens strips and sprinkle with salt. Massage the

oil and salt into the strips, with your hands, until all pieces are well coated, about 3-5 minutes.

Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes.

Pour over the collard green and stir well. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours,

but overnight is best. Adjust to taste with additional salt, as needed.

Toss with sliced red bell pepper and onion right before service.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Cracklin Bread

Yields about 8 servings


2 cups self rising corn meal or 2 cups cornmeal + 1 tablespoon baking powder +

teaspoon salt

1 cup pork cracklins, rough chopped

1 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 tablespoons bacon grease


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place corn meal in a medium size mixing bowl.

Add eggs.

Add buttermilk.

Stir ingredients, adding more buttermilk as needed to make a slightly thick batter.

Add the cracklins, stir well to combine.

Pour the melted bacon grease in with the batter, stir again to combine.

Place bacon grease in cast iron skillet, over Medium heat, let melt.

Pour batter into hot skillet, spread out evenly.

Place skillet in preheated oven.

Bake 20-25 minutes as needed, until lightly browned on top.

Remove from oven.

Run a butter knife around the edges of the cornbread to loosen from skillet.

Flip bread out onto a plate.

Top with butter, serve warm.

Tomato & Okra Gravy

I use to watch, mortified, as my grandfather would use fresh biscuits to sop up his

tomato and okra gravy wondering how something so slimly could give him such obvious

pleasure. It wasn’t until decades later that I grew to appreciate this summertime dish.

Yields 4 servings


3 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon flour

½ cup chicken stock or water

5 medium garden fresh tomatoes, cored and sliced

1 pound tender young okra, cut into ½ inch pieces

Sea salt, to taste

Fresh cracked black pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper


In a medium sized skillet heat bacon drippings over low heat.

Add onion and cook until soft but not browned.

Add flour, and stir until well incorporated, about 5 minutes. 

Pour stock into skillet, and whisk until smooth, simmering until thick and smooth.

Add tomatoes and okra to onion mixture, increase heat to medium, and bring to a

simmer, stirring frequently.

Cook until okra softens and tomatoes begin to break down, making a thick gravy.

Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, and continue to simmer until okra has

cooked through.

Adjust seasoning to taste. 

Serve Okra & Tomato Gravy over white rice or with Buttermilk Biscuits.

Recipes from Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, by Jennifer Hill Booker, ©2014 Jennifer Hill Booker, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.


Chef Jennifer's

Cooking Tips:


Plan your menu around your grocer's weekly sales ad. Your ingredients will be in stock, in season, and on sale!


Shop, Cook & Eat Seasonally. In-season produce is fresh, inexpensive, and tasty!


Cook Once & Eat Twice. Cook a double batch of dishes like soups, beans and chili-for those days you don't feel like cooking!

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