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B. Smith Puts A Healthy Twist On Southern Cuisine

A former fashion model, Barbara Smith was the first African-American woman to appear on the cover of <em>Mademoiselle</em> magazine.
A former fashion model, Barbara Smith was the first African-American woman to appear on the cover of <em>Mademoiselle</em> magazine.

Chef, former model and television personality Barbara Smith may not be from the South, but that doesn't stop her from cooking Southern style.

"If you're of African-American descent, somewhere along the line, you have family that's lived in the South," she tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen. "The foods that my mother cooked in Western Pennsylvania were Southern foods."

Smith draws on those Southern influences as the proprietor of three restaurants and the author of the new cookbook B. Smith Cooks Southern Style. The new book offers techniques for putting more healthful twists on traditional Southern dishes, including braise of black-eyed peas and greens soup and Southern-style collard greens.

"I love fat because it adds such great flavor, but in moderation these days," she says.

Though she learned Southern-style cooking from her parents and her extended family in North Carolina, Smith says anyone can learn to cook Southern cuisine. But, she warns, some of the recipes in the book require quite a bit of effort.

Take, for instance, Turducken (chicken, within a duck, within a turkey), which merits its own chapter in the book. Smith's Turducken recipe includes a different type of stuffing for each, and, the chef admits, the dish is not for amateurs: "It might be something you want to try with a sister or a pal, where they do all the dressings, and you make sure you have the turkey and the duck and the chicken."

Despite step-by-step instructions for the more complex recipes, Smith says it is important to add individual flair when cooking.

"That's what I like about recipe books," says Smith. "Mine is a map, and then you take that map and go where you want to go with it."

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