The Life and Legacy of Southern Cook Edna Lewis

Detail from the cover of 'Taste of Country Cooking'

Edna Lewis turned her 'Taste for Country Cooking' into a trend-setting 1976 book of essays and simple menus. hide caption

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The first lady of southern cooking, Edna Lewis, was laid to rest this morning in Unionville, Va., at the age of 89.

Her 1976 cookbook The Taste of Country Cooking was an eloquent tribute to farm life, and the bonding power of food. Those essays, combined with simple, yet elegant menus, transformed the way people looked at southern cooking.

In her later years, Lewis had a special relationship with Atlanta chef Scott Peacock. Together they penned a lovely cookbook called The Gift of Southern Cooking. Food writer John T. Edge, who studied under Lewis, discusses her legacy with Debbie Elliott.

Catfish Stew Recipe

Edna Lewis with Atlanta chef Scott Peacock.

Edna Lewis with Atlanta chef Scott Peacock. hide caption

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From The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great Southern Cooks by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 tablespoons bacon fat

1 large onion, finely diced

1 shallot, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

8 small new potatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick

2 small ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (1 cup)

1/2 cup dry white wine

8 cups water

2 pounds catfish fillet, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons finely snipped parsley

4 green onions or scallions, white and 2 inches of green, very thinly sliced

Heat the butter and bacon fat in a heavy saucepan until foaming. Add the diced onion and shallot, and cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Toss the garlic, thyme, and salt into the pan, and cook 5 minutes longer. Add the sliced carrot and potatoes, and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, white wine, and water, and bring to a simmer. Cook at a simmer, skimming the surface occasionally, until the potatoes and carrot are tender, about 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, season the catfish pieces liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. When the potatoes are tender, add the seasoned catfish, parsley, and scallions to the pot. Cook, partially covered, at a very low simmer for 5 minutes. Taste carefully for seasoning, adding more salt and freshly ground pepper as needed.

Books Featured In This Story

The Taste of Country Cooking

by Edna Lewis

Paperback, xv, 260, viii p. | purchase

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