B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style

Barbara Smith isn’t just a former fashion model, turned lifestyle guru, restaurateur and cook, she’s also written, B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style Scribners 2009), that presents a lighter, if sweet, version of Southern Food.

The one thing she isn’t Southern – only partly – but she does have an affinity to the flavors of Southern comfort food. She isn’t tied to tradition, which allows her to tweak the flavors in some dishes and reduce the fat in others.

Let me get something straight: I like fat. It adds flavor like no other ingredient I’ve ever come across in all my experience cooking. What I’ve done is lighten up the traditional Southern dishes we love by revisiting their original recipes, unlocking old secrets to perfect taste, and creating new ones. (p. 2)

How does that fat reduction work? Start with Turkey Sausage Gravy and Biscuits (pp. 9-11) in a chapter on Brunch. The sausage is made of low-fat ground turkey and plenty of seasonings like sage, fennel, and thyme. The gravy is made with fat free evaporated milk and olive oil. Pain Perdu Served with Home Style Can Syrup (pp. 18-19) is a bit richer, since the bread is fried in a mixture of butter and canola oil and then served with a syrup made of white wine, brown sugar and molasses – but, it’s clearly for splurging at a fancier weekend brunch.

The recipes range freely over the whole south from bayou to Charleston, which allows B. to include everything from French-inspired Frisee Salad with Smoked Bacon, Mushrooms, and Quail Eggs with a Spicy Dijon Vinaigrette (p. 104) to a few non-traditional ingredients Herbed Quinoa Pilaf (p. 210).

B. includes a traditional Crab and Shrimp Etouffée (p. 75) that is full of good for you ingredients like chicken stock, olive oil, and seafood, but she also offers a Vegetarian Etouffée (pp. 77-78) made with sun chokes and other vegetables, that is even lighter.

Low in fat doesn’t mean staying away from the sweet stuff. If you are in the mood for a good dose of sweet bourbon or brown sugar, B. does not disappoint. There’s everything from Sweet Bourbon Corn Pudding (p. 221), Bourbon Brown Sugar-Brushed Ham Loaf (p. 127) to Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream (pp. 256-59) and Sweet Potato Pie with Brown Sugar Pecan Topping (p. 281-84).

B. Smith runs three restaurants, including one in Washington DC’s Union Station. She is launching a PBS Show this fall, The Very Best of B Smith with Style and she is expanding The B Smith Collection that includes bedding and products for the bath. B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style is great book for someone looking for lighter, yet comforting Southern recipes, already familiar with B.’s style and savvy or someone seeking an alternative to Martha Stewart.

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