Sunday, December 30, 2012

Black Eyed Peas for the New Year

Black-eyed peas originated in West Africa; they go back a far as Ancient Egypt. During the time of Pharaoh, they were a sign of good luck and prosperity.  This tradition continued when African slaves came to the America.   In the South, blacks and whites embraced the tradition by cooking black-eyed peas with some type of pork.  In many African American household, the tradition continues.

Growing up New Year’s dinner consisted of black-eyed peas, potato salad, collard greens, pig feet, chitterlings and rice.  As a child, I can remember walking into our build on the Eve of the Holiday and being greeted by the smell of cured pork and chitterling that permeated the entire building .

As we have all gotten older and perhaps wiser, black-eyed peas cooked with pork and the entire New Year’s Feast is a tough sell to my family.  So I have adapted this recipe for black-eyed peas from Marcus Samuelsson’s The Soul of a New Cuisine.  The Berber spices, coconut milk and ginger add distinct flavor and complexity to this dish.  You will not miss the pork!

 Black-Eyed Peas


1 ½ cup black-eyed peas soaked in water for 8 hours and drained
2 tablespoons Infused Olive Oil
1 large red onion, diced
1 Scotch bonnet, Serrano or Jalapeno pepper seeded and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon fresh turmeric peeled and chopped or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon Berbere Spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup chicken/vegetable stock
1 ½ cup light coconut milk
½ cup diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup sliced scallions

In a medium saucepan simmer peas in 1.5 quarts of water, uncovered for 45 minutes or until tinder but not falling apart.
Drain and set aside

Heat oil in saucepan. 
Saute onions, chili, garlic, ginger and fresh turmeric until onions are translucent.

Add Berber Spice, salt, stock and coconut milk; simmer for 40 minutes

Add tomatoes, cilantro and scallions and simmer for 5 minutes more.
May you have a Blessed and Prosperous New Year!

Infused Olive Oil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, sliced
8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ bay leaf
Heat oil in a small saucepan; do not all oil to smoke.
Add all ingredients.
Stir occasionally; allow ingredients to steep for 15 minutes

Berbere Spice
For those of you who don’t want to prepare this spice blend Kalustyans sells a Berbere Spice that is very good.  I enjoy making spice blends so I made mixture often used in Ethiopian Food.
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
¼ cup dried chilies
¼ cup dried paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½  teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Finely grind fenugreek seeds with a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder.
Combine all ingredients
Store in an airtight container until ready to use

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Cookies

Growing up the process of making Christmas cookies was, in my mind, more important than decorating the Christmas tree.  We would start making our cookies at least two weeks before the Holiday.   On Saturday morning, the smell of toasted nuts, vanilla and butter permeated the entire apartment. Resisting the urge to eat every single cookie was difficult. Mom would allow one sample of each cookie before December 25.  When all baking was complete, she would store them in large Tupperware containers and place them on the highest shelf in our walk-in pantry.    Rarely did the line up of sweets change.  Almost all the recipes came from the backs of jars, cans, box tops or the pages Women’s Day, Good Housekeeping or Family Circle.   Many of my siblings still use these recipes, like Toll House Chocolate Chips, Land-o-Lakes Butter Spritz cookies and Pecan Ball cut from the pages of Good Housekeeping.

This year I was determined to make cookies that could never find their way on to our Holiday line–up of cookies.  All of my recipes came from well-regarded cookbooks, websites and magazines.   It is my hope that you have your holiday cookies completed by now but if you are someone who performs well in the eleventh hour or just waits until the last minute, these are the sources of my cookies. 

Ginger Snaps-Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri 
Checkerboard Cookies-Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri

What ever cookies you choose, I hope that you'll create lasting memories.

Wishing you all the best as you celebrate Christmas and the New Year!


Saturday, December 15, 2012


Saturday morning began with a trip to the farmers market.  I savory these visit because it is December and soon there will be snow on the ground and the market will be gone until springtime.  As I walked pass the stands of roots and tubers I came across a bin of unwaxed rutabagas.  Rutabagas are waxed in order to maintain their moisture and increase shelf life when stored in the refrigerator or in a cool place.  I imagined this could only mean that the farmer was so confident that he was going to sell everything therefore he didn't bother with waxing them. They were fresh from the farm ready to consume. That is probably why they caught my eye.  This would be the perfect side for roasted rack of lamb and  sauteed green beans with hazel nut butter. Saturday nights dinner for two at its best.  

Growing up we would have rutabaga once a year during the Holiday. They were cooked in render bacon and water; depending on which relative prepared them, they were sometimes mashed.  As a child there weren’t many foods that I wouldn’t eat, so I ate the rutabaga as part of our holiday dinner.  I will add however that I did not miss that vegetable from one year to the next.

Originally, from Eastern Europe, the rutabaga was often cooked like many vegetables prepared in the South--with a piece of pork. Although rich in vitamin C, vitamin B, calcium and potassium rutabaga's health benefits are often overshadowed by the way we prepare them. The tradition of cooking vegetables in pork continued in my family until I began cooking professionally.

Although I learned numerous ways of preparing the rutabaga, simply roasted with a little olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs is how I like them.  Roasting rutabaga at 350F for one hour develops its sweetness and flavor.

The preparation is so simple I did not provide a recipe.  Just toss in olive oil, thyme, garlic-salt and pepper to taste.  Roast on a sheet pan for one hour at 350F.  I have some problems with my oven. The heat is uneven therefore it  browns food too quickly on the bottom; therefore, I roasted the turnips on a rack to prevent them from burning before they were fully cooked.  If your oven is working properly this is not necessary.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's It All About

So sorry I am late with my weekly post, but I have been doing some restructuring.  I originally embarked on all of this with the intention of talking about African American Food as it relates to where we originated, where we have been and where we need to go as we continually evolve. 

Don’t go click to another page. 

I promise not too be preachy.  I have so much I want to share about African American food—food that originates from a people who left a place of green vegetables, tubers, grains and fruit.  In addition to our history, one that is rich and layered with flavors, textures and colors, I’ll show you new and healthier ways of preparing old favorites.

African American food is one the original fusion foods that melds African, Caribbean, South American, Native American and European influences. As I write these posts, I hope to bring to light the multitude of flavors that embody the African American experience as well and introduce new ones that can be incorporated in our culinary repertoire. 

Before I go any further, I need to thank my friend Karen for reminding me of my focus.
Thank you, KBS!


Collards green have always been among my favorite leafy green vegetables. This phytonutrient rich green is also and good source of calcium.  Growing up many of the cooked green vegetables we ate were prepared with some type of smoked, cured or salted pork.  Mom would prepare them with a minimal amount of water because she said that all of the nutrients would go into the water and since we were not going to drink the water, very little liquid was needed.  She was right!

Historically African American slaves had a strong tradition of eating many cooked greens.  They would boil the vegetables in water and soak up that nutrient rich liquid, which they called pot likker, with corn bread.

Although I still enjoy my greens with a piece of pork, I have made a conscious effort to leave it out.  I have tried substituting turkey but in realizing the fat and sodium content is often comparable to pork, I just assume leave it out.  Caramelizing onions gives the greens the sweetness of a smoked protein and adding a smoked salt or smoked pepper give it a hint of smokiness akin to a smoked neck bone or ham hock. 

1-tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion sliced (10 oz)
2 teaspoons julienne garlic
1-pound bunch of collard greens
1 teaspoon Alderwoods smoked salt
Black pepper to taste

Heat  olive oil in large sauté pan; add onions with ½ teaspoon of the Alderwoods salt.  
Cover pan and allow to brown stirring occasionally to prevent onions from browning to quickly and burning. 
While onions are caramelizing, clean the collards by removing the thick portion of the stem from the leaves. Stack up the leaves, roll them and cut about ¼ inch thick.  Wash them in cold water; allow draining a bit.
When onions are almost caramelized, add garlic; cook a few minutes more.
Add collard and remaining salt and black pepper to taste.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until greens are just tender but not mushy. 

Remove from pan and serve.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Light Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

I stop short of labeling myself as someone with a sweet tooth, although some may brand me as such.  But when I think of that person, it conjures up images of candy bars, cookies, cakes, and pies.  Oh… yes I guess that would be me though high quality cookies, high quality cakes and good old down home pies-just not the candy bars.  Well, if it were chocolate-caramels pecan turtles-- I’m in.   OK correctly characterized, I do have a sweet tooth.  I know that the healthy choice for dessert would be fruit or cheese and most of the time, I adhere to this regimen but it doesn’t satisfy like a baked treat.

Recently, I have fallen into and eating ritual.  On weekdays when I’m on the road I have to stop at a Bake Shop for a confection and a cup of tea.  Two small cookies or a cupcake is really all I need.  These daily treats are starting to add up monetarily and calorically, so I decided to make my own healthy and satisfying sweet fix.   Although I do not have the calorie count of these cookies, I am sure they have fewer calories then the butter cookies or cupcakes I've been eating.  In developing this recipe, I wanted something that did not contain refined sugar and was low in saturated fat.  I replaced the sugar with honey and substituted Canola oil for butter.  I think you will be pleased with the results.

Light Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

2/3 cup honey
½ cup Canola oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
¾ cup dried cranberries
½  teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1  tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F
In a medium bowl mix honey, oil, eggs, vanilla and orange zest until well combined.

In another large bowl combine remaining ingredients.  Stir until well combined 

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients
When all ingredients are incorporated, drop by a heaping tablespoonfuls onto a lightly greased sheet pan
Bake for 10-12 minutes
Remove from sheet pan; place on a cooling rack and allow cooling.
These are soft cake like cookies
This recipe make a little more than 2 dozen cookies