Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Last night my neighbors and I convened for a potluck dinner. Our hosts, Matt and Ryan, had suggested a Southern-inspired menu. We kicked the evening off with some decidedly kitschy family recipes. Ryan’s Pickle Roll-Ups featured cold cuts, cream cheese and mustard wrapped around pickles. Rich presented us with British Cheddar Colourful Kiddie Snax–a half grapefruit skewered with cheese, pineapple and maraschino cherries. I mixed up a batch of Sazeracs to get us in the festive spirit.Cocktail Hour

Exactly three months before, we assembled alongside 100 of their nearest and dearest for Chris and Rich’s amazing wedding. In honor of their anniversary, Chris made theKitchn‘s Italian Wedding Soup. While not technically in keeping with the theme, our first course hit all the right comfort spots. Italian Wedding Soup

Round two included Ryan’s oven-baked ribs,Oven Ribs

creamy coleslaw,Coleslaw

and macaroni and cheese; Macaroni and Cheese

Chris’ cold salad of pigeon peas and broccoli rabe;Pigeon Peas and Broccoli Rabe

and my pork-laden collard greens.Collard Greens

Naturally, the spread had to be captured.Capturing the Spread

Half an hour later, we were all very full.Southern Goodness

But somehow we managed to make room for my apple bourbon crisp with ginger ice cream.  Apple Bourbon Crisp

The red wine flowed throughout dinner. Dessert brought a lovely pear schnapps that Matt had picked up in Salzburg. 

I awoke feeling slightly worse for the wear. As luck would have it, I’d managed to pack the leftover greens into a container and get them into the fridge, so breakfast was a potato-collard hash topped with a poached egg.

Collard Potato Hash

Lowcountry Vegan

I am neither a South Carolinian nor a vegan.

Monday morning I received an email from an acquaintance who had accidentally purchased an eighth of a cow and was looking for people to split it with given her limited freezer space. The cow in question came from Grimaldi Farms, a grass-fed, free-range, organic farm in the Hudson Valley. How could I say no?

Seven hours later, Marissa and I met up for a drink and a cash-for-cow exchange. My $50 bought me a whole lot of meat. Three pounds of ground beef and a giant hunk of bone went into the freezer for a future use. Last night I tried my hand at beef liver–a dish I’d never actually eaten before. I soaked the liver in milk and pan-fried it with a light dusting of flour mixed with salt and pepper. Oumar and I ate it with a red onion jam, arugula in a lemon dressing and pillowy egg tagliardi with a pan sauce that included butter, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, parsley and lemon zest.

This was good stuff, to be sure. But a rich, restaurant-style dinner (and, possibly, the after-dinner bourbon) took its toll. I have 24 hours to regain my strength. My cow share also included half of a five-pound top round roast. Rather than divvy it up, we decided to have dinner together. Tomorrow night Maureen, Kevin, Sara and I will be tucking into pot roast.

So tonight it’s a lowcountry vegan meal for me.

Grits with Shiitake-Seitan Gravy and Braised Collards

  • 1/2 cup grits
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced and 1 minced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves sliced
  • smoked salt
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (While not necessary, this will really boost the flavor. And it makes a great popcorn topping.)
  • 1 package (8 ounces) seitan, torn into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boil in a small pot, lower the temperature to medium, and add the grits. Whisk constantly for a few minutes until the mixtures starts to thicken. Lower the temperature until you achieve a very slow simmer. Whisk occasionally for the next 45 minutes or so. When the grits are done, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add olive oil to a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute onions until they are soft and beginning to brown. Add red pepper flakes and the sliced garlic and cook stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in the collards, some pepper, a good pinch of smoked salt, and 1/2 cup water. Let simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and adding water if it starts to dry out.
  3. Bring two cups of water to a boil and pour over the dried mushrooms in a small bowl. When they have softened, remove the mushrooms and chop them, being sure to retain the mushroom broth.
  4. Add the coconut oil to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic. After 30 seconds, add the flour and whisk constantly for two or three minutes until the mixture takes on a pale blonde color. (Look, you made a roux!) Add the liquid from the mushrooms and whisk constantly. After a few minutes, your gravy should thicken. (Ah, the wonders of a roux.) Stir in the mushrooms and nutritional yeast. From here, you can add water as needed to keep the gravy from getting too thick. Add salt, pepper and the hot sauce(s) of your choice. I used Frank’s, Tabasco and Matouk’s Calypso Hot Sauce, which has been one of my obsessions since I discovered it while vacationing in the Bahamas a couple of years ago. Cook for a few more minutes and your sauce should start to darken. Stir the seitan (which is fully cooked) in for the last minute or so. Add the parsley off the heat.

Grits with Shiitake Seitan Gravy and Braised Collards

This recipe makes enough for two people. I just polished off half of it to steel myself for tonight’s birthday party. Given that the festivities are at a dive bar walking distance from my house, I imagine the second half will make an excellent breakfast.