Melba Wilson Revolutionizes Southern Cuisine with Collard Greens Salad Topped with Fried Catfish

    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: June 27, 2024 (4 weeks ago)

    Melba Wilson, renowned chef and owner of the iconic Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem, is known for her innovative takes on traditional Southern cuisine. Her latest creation, a collard greens salad topped with fried catfish, is making waves in the culinary world, bringing a fresh, healthy twist to classic comfort food.

    A Modern Southern Delight

    Collard greens and fried catfish are staples of Southern cooking, beloved for their hearty flavors and rich history. Wilson’s genius lies in her ability to reinvent these classics while maintaining their soul-satisfying essence. By transforming collard greens into a vibrant, nutritious salad and pairing it with perfectly fried catfish, she has created a dish that is both contemporary and rooted in tradition.

    Inspiration from the Heart

    Wilson, a passionate advocate for preserving and celebrating African American culinary traditions, drew inspiration from her grandmother’s kitchen. “Growing up, collard greens and catfish were always on our table,” she recalls. “I wanted to honor those memories while creating something new and exciting.”

    The Recipe

    Wilson’s collard greens salad with fried catfish is a harmonious blend of flavors and textures, showcasing her culinary expertise and creative flair.


    • For the Salad:
      • 1 bunch of fresh collard greens, washed and finely chopped
      • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
      • 1 red bell pepper, diced
      • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
      • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
      • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
      • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
      • 1/4 cup toasted pecans
      • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
    • For the Dressing:
      • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
      • 1/4 cup olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
      • 1 tablespoon honey
      • 1 clove garlic, minced
      • Salt and pepper to taste
    • For the Fried Catfish:
      • 4 catfish fillets
      • 1 cup buttermilk
      • 1 cup cornmeal
      • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
      • 1 teaspoon paprika
      • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
      • 1 teaspoon onion powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      • Vegetable oil for frying


    1. Prepare the Salad:
      • In a large bowl, combine collard greens, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, carrots, parsley, feta cheese, pecans, and raisins (if using).
      • In a separate bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper until well combined.
      • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.
    2. Prepare the Catfish:
      • In a shallow dish, pour the buttermilk over the catfish fillets, ensuring they are fully submerged. Let them soak for at least 15 minutes.
      • In another shallow dish, mix together cornmeal, flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.
      • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
      • Remove the catfish fillets from the buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off, and dredge them in the cornmeal mixture, coating evenly.
      • Fry the catfish fillets in the hot oil until golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.
    3. Assemble the Dish:
      • Divide the collard greens salad among four plates.
      • Top each salad with a fried catfish fillet.
      • Serve immediately, garnished with additional parsley or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if desired.

    A Culinary Triumph

    Wilson’s collard greens salad topped with fried catfish has been met with enthusiastic praise from diners and critics alike. The dish perfectly balances the freshness of the greens and vegetables with the rich, savory crunch of the catfish, creating a meal that is both satisfying and refreshing.

    Patrons of Melba’s Restaurant have flocked to try this new dish, and many have expressed their admiration for Wilson’s ability to blend tradition with innovation. “This salad is a revelation,” said one diner. “It’s everything you love about Southern food, but lighter and more vibrant.”

    A Legacy of Flavor

    For Wilson, this dish is more than just a culinary creation; it’s a tribute to her heritage and a testament to the versatility of Southern cuisine. “I’m proud to showcase the incredible flavors and ingredients of our culture in new and exciting ways,” she said. “This dish is a celebration of where we’ve come from and where we’re going.”

    As Melba Wilson continues to push the boundaries of traditional Southern cooking, her collard greens salad topped with fried catfish stands as a delicious example of how innovative thinking can breathe new life into beloved classics. Whether enjoyed at her restaurant or recreated at home, this dish promises to delight and inspire.

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