Summer is finally here in its sun-drenched glory. The Pacific Northwest will all but make a Southern girl like me go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, what with cold rainy days and low marine clouds through June. Even my tomatoes looked like curled-up bats until last week. I hasten my summertime comforts and nostalgia by planting a kitchen garden, and when necessary, outsourcing produce that's already in season in 85 percent of our country!
Sunny summer days make just about anyone pine for their childhood foods. And grandmothers we haven't had the privilege to eat with for a good 30 years. My food journalist cousin, Madison, stoked those home fires by asking me to contribute recipes and stories to her new journal, "Grlsquash," inspired by our diverse foremothers' foodways. Then two of my farmer friends, plus famous NC Chef Vivian Howard, provided me with some extra inspiration. I had a pile of collards from Local Roots Farm, a freezer full of ground pork from Idyllwoode Farms, and a set-to-expire load of pantry stuff. Vivian makes stuffed collards, like Greek dolmades, and I had a thought: what if I used the ground pork and collards to make "halpuki," the cabbage rolls my Slovak grandmother (Baba) used to slow-cook for us every time we visited. I'd be blending that memory with visiting my southern grandmother (Granny's) collards and potlikker. Since I didn't have Eastern NC pulled pork, I'd just use the ENC vinegary-peppery BBQ sauce to cook them in. Why not?! And sop it up with some cornbread plus sliced beefsteak tomatoes and salt on the side. Got cole slaw for the side, too? All the better!
Here's what I did (whilst cleaning out my fridge, giving its refuse to my yard chickens, and drinking a bottle of rose wine. It's Sunday...get homefires stuff done).
CAROLINA COLLARD ROLLS
Set oven to 375 F
COLLARDS: Wash and trim large collard leaves just as you would cabbage leaves. Boil them in salted quickly until tender. Pull them out of the water and place them in a bath of cold water with ice cubes. Then lay them flat on cookie sheet or wax paper. Reserve that greenish collard water!
RICE: Cook a cup or two of wild rice or Carolina Gold rice in a rice cooker. Use the collard water in place of regular water. That water is called "potlikker" in the south and it's chock-full of vitamins!
SAUCE: In a 1 quart Mason jar, fill it halfway with distilled white vinegar. Add 2 tbsp. sugar or brown sugar or sorghum. Add 1 tsp salt. 1 tsp pepper. 1 tsp cayenne. 1tsp onion powder. 1 tbsp. tomato paste; 1 can diced tomatoes. Fill to rim with water if needed. Put lid on it and shake.
PORK FILLING: Finely minced, cooked pork or a pound of ground pork/sausage will do. Whatever you have.. Put in mixing bowl. Add a little salt and pepper. 1 big cracked egg or 2 little ones. 1/2 of a Vidalia onion, microplaned. Add your cooked wild rice. Mix with your hands.
Spray some olive oil in a lasagne pan. Spoon some of the red sauce on the bottom, to cover the whole bottom of it lightly. Put a few spoonfulls of the raw pork and rice mixture into the collard, in the middle. Wrap it tightly as you would a burrito or egg roll. Gently place each large roll into your sauced pan. Dump the rest of the sauce jar over your rolls. Cover with foil and bake for 45 mins to an hour!
TO ORDER THE INAUGURAL COPY OF GRLSQUASH: https://grlsquash.com/shop/issueone