En español | In some parts of the South and Appalachia, "killed lettuce" is a familiar dish. My daughter and I love these kinds of salads, where a hot dressing wilts the greens. But the traditional dressing is made with melted bacon grease — hardly a healthy addition. Fatty dishes like that were designed to keep impoverished manual laborers going. They don't fit easily into a world where the challenge for most of us is keeping weight off. But I still cherish down-home cooking and all it represents — the good that gets passed down from generation to generation, along with the bad.
My daughter, Caroline, met my mother only once that she can remember. This is because when my daughter was tiny, my mother insisted on criticizing Caroline. My mother had abused me as a child, and I felt I had to protect my own child from that negativity. Much later, when my mother was dying, I finally took Caroline to see her. My mother's words were as sharp and barbed as they had been before. I walked with my mother to her death, but that one visit was enough for 12-year-old Caroline.
Now an adult, Caroline knows that her grandmother had a difficult life, raised in poverty and foster care. While that doesn't excuse my mother's harsh words and deeds, it does help us understand them.
That's why we reimagined this salad as a prayer for my mother. Caroline took the grace-filled fruits of two of our foremothers — plums from the garden of my grandmother, and apricots from the backyard of my aunt — and used them to replace the flavorful pig fat. When we eat this, we honor the good things my mother did for us and make our peace with the rest.
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 plums, pitted and chopped
4 apricots, pitted and chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce
1 In a small saucepan, heat onions, oil, vinegar, salt and black pepper over medium heat. Bring to a simmer; add the chopped fruit and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat; simmer until fruit is soft, about 10 minutes.
2 Divide lettuce among eight plates; pour hot dressing on top.
Nutrients per serving: 173 calories, 2g protein, 10g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 15g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 86mg sodium
George's Red Snapper
2 skinless red snapper fillets (about 1 pound total)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, quartered
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 lime, cut in two pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Divide both fillets in half. Put each in the middle of its own square of aluminum foil. Drizzle the snapper with the olive oil; squeeze one quarter of the lemon over each fillet. Cover each fillet with oregano and parsley sprigs.
Fold the aluminum foil in toward the middle so each fillet is fully wrapped. Fold and pinch the edges to seal completely.
Put the packets on a baking sheet. Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
3. Carefully open the foil packets (there may be a lot of steam), transfer the fillets to plates and squeeze the lime over them. Serve immediately.
Nutrients per serving: 156 calories, 23g protein, 2g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 6g fat, 40mg cholesterol, 50mg sodium
Novelist Alice Randall, 55, and her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, are coauthors of Soul Food Love
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