Book FareChef Marvin Woods believes in keeping it real. He also believes Southern cooking doesn't have to kill you.Take collard greens, for instance. "I leave out salt pork and fatback," says Woods, who has made a name for himself by reinterpreting Southern cuisine. "They are all cured and have a ton of salt. I approach cooking by asking, How can I still get flavor without using those ingredients?"
His answer? "I sweat carrots and celery together in a little vegetable oil and then add my greens to them. I add a little bit of honey and a little bit of vinegar, let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour, and finish it off with fresh herbs -- thyme, sage, and rosemary -- a little hot sauce, salt, and pepper."
The recipe is included in Woods' book The New Low-Country Cooking: 125 Recipes For Coastal Southern Cooking With Innovative Style. He signs copies and demonstrates recipes from it this week at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Plantation.
South Floridians may remember the buzz about Low-Country food in the mid-'90s, when Woods ran the Miami restaurant Savannah. There he served his take on food that came from the 80-mile stretch of South Carolina between Charleston and Savannah. Historically, coastal waters there provided cooks with bass, shrimp, and sturgeon, while marshy areas sprouted famous Low-Country rice and woodlands sheltered fresh game and fowl. The black cooks who ruled the region's kitchens prepared nature's bounty incorporating techniques from their African heritage and others borrowed from Europe.
Woods, of Pembroke Pines, carries on the tradition in healthier fashion. His Southern Exposed Chicken, for example, is browned, then baked, for crispy yet greaseless eating.
In addition to recipes, the book provides historical context, including the origin of hushpuppies. Even during food shortages following the Civil War, cornmeal was in abundance, explains Woods. "They would fry up the cornmeal dumplings and throw them to the stray dogs to keep them quiet."