We’ve been looking at houses as the time to get serious about making a move from our present house is getting closer. It’s difficult to decide if you like an area from pictures, so we’ve been taking some day trips to different parts of the north state checking them out for ourselves.
I look around this house and am overwhelmed with the accumulation of “stuff” that we’ve amassed in our ten plus years here. We’re definitely looking to downsize so the first thing I’m going to do is have a garage sale. With thirty-two moves under my belt I am definitely a Zen master when it comes to garage sales. I have actually sold jalapenos from my garden in small baggies when I was on a roll. There’s something about getting paid for things I would otherwise have disposed of that brings out the entrepreneur in me. My ex was the worst. You had to keep an eye on him. When a crowd would begin to mill about, he’d slap a price tag on everything from the neighbor’s dog to the bed you were planning to sleep on that night.
Looking at hundreds of pictures of houses available on real estate sites is exhausting. They take clever pictures that naturally are meant to show off the house in the best light, but lean toward being deceptive. The term,”needs a little TLC”, just sends shivers up my spine. If they’re willing to put that statement out in the ad details you can bet the former tenants most probably spent their free time repairing Harley’s on the living room carpet. One we saw advertised a lovely built-in pool. After locating the property we found it to have a huge houseboat parked in the weeds to the left of the house and although the “built-in” portion of the ad referring to the pool was accurate, it was definitely built into the ground, they did, however, neglect to mention that the pool was a lovely shade of olive-green and the only swimmers it had seen in a very long time were the host of tadpoles and miscellaneous insects cruising around on the surface of the water. My focus, as always, is on the kitchen. I need some room to spread out when I’m cooking and a nice place to do it in, if possible.
It’s supposed to rain again this weekend so I guess I’ll get busy foraging in my closets and cupboards. I am truly ready for summer to dig her heels in and set a spell, but I guess I shouldn’t complain since Texas is in the middle of a terrible drought, tornadoes are terrorizing the south and the midwest, and the Mississippi River is moving towards New Orleans taking everything that gets in her way with it. Rainy weather actually makes me more productive, and I love to cook when it’s gloomy and drizzly. Makes me feel cozy. I light a candle or two, turn on some of my favorite jazz, and get crazy in the kitchen.
Jazz always takes my mind to New Orleans. They surely have had more than their share of trouble over the past years. I found the people there to be a resilient and colorful group during my visits, which while living in Arkansas and Albama, I visited as often as possible. Some of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans were located in the French Quarter, although there are excellent places to eat spread throughout the city. Antoine’s, with its decidedly French accents and delicious creole cuisine is a great place to relieve yourself of some of your Yankee dollars, but, for me, the small, more intimate restaurants with descriptions on their menus like “a mess of greens or catfish”, are more my cup of tea. I like those places. Collard greens and black-eyed peas served over rice with spicy hand-packed andouille sausages lining the side of the plate simply makes my mouth water. If I saw a generously cut chef moving back and forth to the music playing in the kitchen something told me I was in the right place. A chef that doesn’t taste his or her own food is like asking a blind man to style your hair. Not going to work. The city itself, with its hot humid days and predictable afternoon periods of rain, unparalleled music floating out of restaurants and bars along the streets, and vendors hawking fresh shrimp, crawdads, and crab out of ice packed trailers along the side of the roads outside of the city, offers up a uniqueness that draws pe0ple effortlessly to its city limits.
This recipe came to me from a Creole lady I knew down there by the name of Louie, short for Louise. Louie smoked like a chimney, poured Jack Daniels on her Cheerios, and would give you her last chair if you needed it. Weighing in at under a hundred pounds, she was a fabulous cook and a seriously steady performer at the dinner table. In my visits to her home, I never saw her without a large white kitchen towel tied around her waist tending to a pot of something or other delicious smelling bubbling on the stove. Where she got this recipe I have no clue, but I loved it when she shared it with me so I hope you’ll feel the same way.
Collard greens were actually considered lower class eats for many years. They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals being a dark green green, if you will, but they’re delicious. Make sure they are not yellowed or wilted at the store. Cut off the stems and center rib. Slice crosswise in 1 1/2″ thickness. Wash and rinse at least twice in colander to remove any sandy residue (sometimes I do it three times). Make sure you rinse well then remove the collards, rinse colander and then replace the collards, and repeat. Gritty collards are not what they mean by southern grits.
Collard Greens with Tomatoes and Onions
1 1/2 lbs. collard greens
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
6 cups pork stock*
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
38 oz. whole canned, peeled, tomatoes, drained
Wash and drain collards and prepare as mentioned above. Bring pork stock (recipe below) to a boil in large Dutch oven. Add greens and cook, uncovered for 40 mins. or until tender. Drain the greens and reserve the liquid.
Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven. Add onion and saute stirring frequently over med. heat for 10 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes as well as 1/2 tsp, salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Stir well and cook for 5 mins. longer.
Add tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups of reserved liquid from the greens. Simmer for 15-20 mins. Adjust seasonings as desired. Add drained collard greens and simmer an additional 10 mins. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Serves 6-8
2 lbs. cured and smoked pork shoulder (can substitute ham hocks)
4 quarts water
Place pork in large stockpot and cover with water. Simmer covered on a high simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until stock has a strong smoked pork taste. Strain and discard shoulder or hocks. Cool and refrigerate. Keep in refrigerator for 1 week and then freeze.