Monday, July 7, 2014

Inspired by global travel, a new look at Southern ingredients

Brys Stephens, author of The New Southern Table, will sign copies of his book from 12 noon to 3pm Friday, July 11, at Savory Spice Shop in Lafayette Village, 8470 Honeycutt Road, Raleigh. For information, call 919-900-8291.

“… and it's that if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.” – Dorothy Gale, Kansas

Brys Stephens
Sometimes you have travel far from home to realize that the things you grew up with, the things you took for granted, are more important than you could have imagined.

That happened to Brys Stephens, a food writer who makes his home on Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston.  Thanks to his family’s business, which had international interests, Stephens was still a boy when he became a world traveler. Over the years, as he visited farm stands and ate at restaurants around the globe, he couldn’t help but notice how the foods of the American South figured prominently in the cuisines of other countries.

I grew up with great soul food, a lot of African American influences,” says Stephens, author of The New Southern Table (Fair Winds Press, $21.99). “I enjoyed all those classic Southern things, but at the same time I was traveling and seeing different landscapes. The bottom line for me is that what grows together goes together. I think it gave me an ingredient focus in my cooking.”

Stephens’ book is subtitled “Classic Ingredients Revisited.” His goal is not to re-invent fried chicken and biscuits so much as to shows how classic Southern ingredients – okra, sweet potatoes, rice and peanuts, among others – can be used in new ways.

“It’s almost like a jazz riff,” he says. “Look at Edward Lee in Louisville, using kimchi and country ham. India does a red beans and rice dish that looks almost like ours, but they use entirely different spices. That's exciting to me.”

Stephens wants folks who already adore local crops to be emboldened by his recipes, which incorporate the particular spice profiles and techniques favored in places as distinct as Europe and Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean Islands. Not surprisingly, many of these countries have hot growing seasons and, importantly, were part of the slave trade route that carried new foods along with enslaved people.

Stephens says that fusing culinary traditions reflects the changing nature of the South, where immigrants are finding success operating Korean barbecue joints next door to old school smoke shops.

Some recipes completely transform ingredients from how they are commonly consumed in the South. While many of us ate fresh-cut wedges of juicy watermelon over the July 4th holiday, Stephens shows how Sicilians turn watermelon into a jellied pudding studded with pistachios.

“It’s fun and surprising,” he says. “I hope people will feel the same excitement about using familiar ingredients in new ways.”

On Friday at Savory Spice Shop, where he will signs copies of his book, Stephens is expected to offer samples of his Butterbean Hummus, in which he substitutes baby lima beans for chickpeas. While it keeps the sesame tahini popular in Middle Eastern recipes, it recalls the more Southern-inspired Butterbean Pate created by The Lee Brothers of Charleston, who are cited as a strong influence.

The New Southern Table has that hallmark quality of all truly great Southern cookbooks: It makes us want to get into the kitchen and cook sweet potatoes the first day we flip it open!” say Ted and Matt Lee in a book jacket comment.

Butterbean Hummus
Reprinted with permission of the author from The New Southern Table.

4 tablespoons (60g) sesame tahini
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste, divided
1 clove garlic, minced, divided
2½ cups (425g) cooked lima beans
1 tablespoon (15g) nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon (15g) lima bean cooking liquid of water
Kosher salt
Olive oil for drizzling (optional)

In a small bowl, mix together the tahini with one half of the lemon juice and one half of the garlic to lighten the tahini’s texture. Combine the tahini mixture, the remaining lemon juice, garlic, lima beans, yogurt and lima bean cooking water in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Season with to taste with salt, and then blend again to incorporate. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Yield: 2-3 cups (490-740g).

No comments:

Post a Comment