Holiday recipes – excerpt from ‘TheAfrican-American Kitchen: Cooking From Our Heritage’

Holiday recipes – excerpt from ‘TheAfrican-American Kitchen: Cooking From Our Heritage’ – includes recipes

Anthony Murphy

African slaves in North America often found themselves making do with the food that was available to them – and making that palatable. Such resourcefulness is one focus of Angela Shelf Medearis’ The African-American Kitchen: Cooking From Our Heritage (Dutton, 1994), which delves into the background of the African presence in American cookery. “It is the first to explore the historic culinary contributions that African captives made to our heritage,” says Medearis, an Austin, Texas, writer who also produces children’s books geared toward African Americans.

The African-American Kitchen begins with a look at representative North, West and Southern African recipes, then examines how the African slave presence influenced cooking in the Caribbean and North America, and then reintroduces readers to traditional African-American cooking, as well as to holiday cooking.

Among the book’s many recipes, from condiments and marinades to salads, ciders and meat dishes, Medearis recommends an eggless “eggnog,” low-calorie greens, a low-calorie catfish dish – and her mother’s pecan pie.

OLD-FASHIONED

MOLASSES NOG

Serves 5

Since there has been so much concern recently about ingesting raw eggs, I was happy to discover this old recipe for eggless “eggnog.”

2 cups evaporated milk 2 cups ice-cold water 1/8 tsp. salt 2 tbsps. sorghum molasses Ground nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon for sprinkling

Blend the milk, water, salt and molasses and pour into glasses. Sprinkle a little nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon, or the spice of your choice, on top. Serve cold.

MIXED GREENS

Serves 6 to 8

The most important part of good health and relief from stress is surrounding yourself with people who love you.

1 bunch (2 lbs.) collard greens 1 bunch (2 lbs.) kale 1 bunch (2 lbs.) spinach 1 bunch (2 lbs.) turnip greens 1 tbsp. salt 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 clove garlic, chopped 1/4 tsp. sugar Cayenne pepper to taste

Cut the tough stems and yellow leaves from the greens and discard. Gently rub the leaves with your fingers under warm running water. Cut the leaves into small pieces. Fill the sink with warm water and add the salt. Let the greens soak for 10 minutes. Rinse with cool water and shake off the excess, but do not dry the greens.

Put the greens and the remaining ingredients in a Dutch oven or heavy pot. No added water is needed, as greens give off their own liquid. Cover and cook over moderate heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until the greens are tender.

PECAN CATFISH

Serves 4

I could draw a circle on a piece of paper and my mother made me feel like Van Gogh.

2 tbsps. milk 3 tbsps. Dijon mustard 4 catfish fillets, about 1/2 lb. each 1 cup ground pecans

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and mustard. Dip the fillets into the mustard mixture. Coat the fillets with the pecans, shaking off the excess. Put the fillets on a greased baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

ANGELINE’S

RAISIN-PECAN PIE

Yields 1 9-inch pie

1 1/2 cups raisins 1 1/4 cups sugar 1/2 cup butter 2 eggs 1 cup pecan halves 1 tsp. ground nutmeg 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the raisins in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs and combine well. Beat in the raisins, pecans, spices and vanilla.

Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown and set, about 45 minutes.

“What I wanted to do with the cookbook is show that traditional foods, good taste and good health are all compatible,” says Essence magazine’s food editor, Jonell Nash, referring to Essence Brings You Great Cooking (Amistad, 1994). Nash concentrated her energies on that one goal, working “to maintain the traditional flavors and yet reduce the amounts of fat, especially the saturated fats, sodium, sugar and calories in the recipes.”

Essence Brings You Great Cooking isn’t just a collection of recipes. “It’s actually a recording of our food traditions, and it traces the roots of dishes that make up the food legacy that we enjoy today,” explains Nash. She describes the cookbook as a basic one “for those who don’t have certain cooking skills, for a generation that perhaps has not been a part of an extended family where there was a grandparent or an actual parent very busy in the kitchen and there to teach basic skills. The book is there for them, as a surrogate mom or the surrogate teacher in the kitchen.”

The cookbook also reflects Nash’s background as a secondary teacher in home economics. “The fundamental principles and techniques of cooking are there, as well as traditional recipes. Some of the elements that make up the tradition are related to foods, but not necessarily about recipes, and those elements are poems, prose, the folk sayings, the lore.”

Nash recommends the book’s new tradition Jollof rice recipe as a good main dish or buffet item for the holidays, explaining: “It is of West African origin, and it has the black-eyed peas in it, which are indigenous to the motherland. It’s a versatile and easy recipe to prepare.”

NEW TRADITION

JOLLOF RICE

Serves 8

This classic West African dish can take on infinite variations – add shrimp or meat or serve as is for an excellent main dish.

1 cup dried black-eyed peas Water 1/3 cup vegetable oil 3 tbsps. grated fresh ginger 2 large onions, chopped 4 garlic cloves: 1 whole, 3 minced 1 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces, rinsed, dried 3 or 4 ripe large tomatoes or 1 1/2 tbsps. tomato paste 4 cups liquid from cooked peas (supplement with water or chicken broth if necessary to equal 4 cups), reserve peas 1 tbsp. curry powder 2 tbsps. cayenne pepper, or to taste 2 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice 1 lb. carrots, peeled, diced 1/2 lb. string beans, ends trimmed, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces 1 tsp. sea salt (optional)

Clean and soak peas overnight; drain and discard liquid. In 6-quart saucepan, cover peas with 3 quarts water; over low heat, bring to simmer. Cook covered 15 minutes; set aside. In oven-proof Dutch oven or iron kettle, heat oil; add 1 tablespoon ginger, 3 tablespoons onion, whole garlic clove and chicken pieces. Brown chicken on all sides, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove chicken to plate; set aside. Add remaining ginger, onion and garlic to pot; saute until wilted. Stir in tomatoes or paste, liquid from peas, curry and cayenne; bring to simmer. Stir in rice, peas and carrots; over low heat, simmer 10 minutes. Add chicken, string beans and sea salt; simmer 15 additional minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover and transfer to oven; bake 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

April A. Brady, the author of Kwanzaa Karamu: Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast (Carolrhoda Books, February 1995) doesn’t know any black families that have never had peach cobbler. “I think that that’s something that’s been passed down through African-American families,” says the St. Louis Park, Minn., resident, as she talks about her sister’s peach cobbler. “Everybody’s got a peach cobbler recipe.”

Kwanzaa Karamu, according to Brady, offers more than the usual cookbook. “It covers the history of Kwanzaa and also includes some recipes that families can make, with all members of the family getting involved,” she says. “It also includes a section on crafts. Kids can actually make the crafts associated with the celebration of Kwanzaa, and their parents can help them do that. It brings the family together to develop something as a unit.”

CHANDRA’S PEACH

COBBLER

Serves 8 to 10

My sister, Chandra, is a woman whose roots lie in Southern cooking. This recipe is a tribute to our history.

2 30-oz. cans peaches (use peaches canned in their own juice and not sugar or syrup) 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed tightly in measuring cup 2 tbsps. cornstarch 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/4 tsp. cinnamon 1 15-oz. package refrigerated ready-made pie crust 1 tbsp. butter or margarine, cut into pea-size pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drain the peaches and set aside. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the juice from the peaches into a saucepan.

Add the brown sugar and cornstarch to the juice. Cook over low heat, stirring until thickened. Stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Add the peaches and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the fruit is hot.

Remove from heat and spoon the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch nonstick pan. The liquid should barely cover the peaches.

Spread the crust out flat on a piece of waxed paper. Using a table knife, cut the dough into strips about 1 inch wide. Lay the strips vertically and horizontally over the fruit mixture. Dot the crust with butter and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

In the introduction to his book Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture (Quill/William Morrow, 1993), Eric V. Copage discusses the origins of Kwanzaa, as well as the variety of ways in which families choose to celebrate it. “It is not only a cookbook,” says Copage, an editor with the New York Times, “it is an education about the African diaspora because it has food. It also has wisdom, not just Eric’s paraphrasings; it has stories, folk tales. We quote African, African-American and Caribbean folk tales and fables.”

One element that is missing from the book is music, but Copage has already responded with Kwanzaa Music, a compilation of inspirational songs, to be released in January 1995, appropriate for celebrating the 28-year-old holiday and featuring Baha Men, Bahia Black, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, James Brown, Lucila Campos, Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, Aretha Franklin, Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens and others.

From Kwanzaa, Copage recommends a chicken dish called yassa, because “it’s relatively simple to make. You can double up and triple up the ingredients to serve more people.”

YASSA

Spicy Marinated Chicken in Onion Sauce

Serves 4

4 large onions, thinly sliced 1/2 cup fresh lime juice 1 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1 (3 1/2-lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces 3 tbsps. olive oil 1 medium carrot, chopped 1 medium celery rib, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 fresh hot chili pepper, such as jalapeno, seeded and minced 1/2 cup chicken broth, homemade or canned Hot cooked rice or couscous

In a large bowl, combine the onions, lime juice, salt and pepper. Add the chicken, and toss to coat well. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 and up to 6 hours. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Drain the marinade in a colander set over a large bowl, and reserve both the liquid and the solids.

Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven. In batches, cook the chicken over medium-high heat, turning often, until browned on all sides (about 6 minutes per batch). Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate and set it aside.

Add the reserved marinated onions and the carrot, celery, garlic and pepper to the Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the onions have softened (about 8 minutes). Stir in the chicken broth and the reserved marinade liquid; bring to a boil. Return the chicken broth to the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the chicken shows no sign of pink at the bone when prodded with the tip of a sharp knife (35 to 40 minutes).

Serve over hot rice or couscous.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Heritage Information Holdings, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group