Juneteenth is a time when we celebrate and remember. We pronounce the names of our ancestors and honor their sacrifice. We celebrate the freedom and resilience of African Americans and the ingenuity that has kept us alive in this country. In recent years, our June 15 celebrations have grown more vibrant and robust, with Americans from coast to coast “giving what must be given” at our rallies in the name of the dark. At the center of it all you will find our culinary traditions.
Black American culinary traditions are American culinary traditions. From low country hill rice, South Carolina to mumbo sauce and Washington DC fried chicken, the history of the diaspora is well documented on the American plate.
Chefs don’t just create formulas that capture the soul of our appetite; they are also griots, members of a class of storytellers who have a different interpretation of our oral history.
Cookbooks document the living memories of our ancestors, those that were made in the kitchens of our grandmother or great-grandmother. For me, these culinary tomes are just as important as collecting the works of Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison. I own a lot of them, but some of my favorites are Dooky Chase’s Cookbook, written by his daughter Leah Chase; it is on the shelf in my kitchen next to it High on the pork by Jessica B Harris (with a preface by the legendary Angelou), and the Red Rooster Recipe Book by my chief hero, Marcus Samuelsson.
To me, these succulent works represent the unique cultural perspective of the black dining experience. So in the spirit of heritage and tradition, let’s pay tribute to Juneteenth with some of my favorite recipes from the above works, plus one from a rising star in our industry. Chief Rasheedah Purdie, whose creative approach to traditional cuisine is another brick laid on the basis of black excellence. Check out her reimagining of our food at home Juneteenth Roots + Ramen Pop Up is happening in the New York metro area.
Sweet potato cookies
Yield: 6 cookies
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
- ¼ cup) sugar
- 1 beaten egg
- 2 tablespoons of baking powder
- 3 cups of self-rising flour
- ¼ cup of shortening
- 1 cup of milk
-Melt the butter and add the sweet potatoes. Add the sugar and the egg. Beat the mixture until creamy. Put aside.
-Mix the baking powder with the flour and sift.
– Add the shortening and mix well with the flour.
– Add the sweet potatoes and milk to make a soft mixture. Work all the ingredients well together.
-Turn the mixture onto a well floured board. Roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter. Place on a baking sheet.
-Bake at 400 degrees until cookies are golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Obama short ribs
- 4 (8 z.) Boneless ribs
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp. grape seed oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 chops of celery, chopped
- 1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, crushed and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 piece (1 inch) ginger, peeled and minced
- ½ cup of dry red wine
- 3 cups of beef or chicken broth
- ½ cup plum sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- Horseradish, preferably freshly grated, for serving
-Preheat the oven to 325 ° F.
– Dry the meat with paper towels and season everything with salt and pepper.
-Heat the grapeseed oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it sparkles, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Set them aside on a plate.
-Add the onion, carrot, celery, lemongrass, garlic and ginger to the pot. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring to dissolve any brown pieces that may still be at the bottom of the pan (the juice from the onions will already be almost dissolved). Add the broth, plum sauce, soy sauce, thyme, parsley and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Return the ribs to the pan, with one of the juices, cover and slide the pan into the oven. Braise until meat is tender with a fork, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
-Transfer the meat to a plate. Filter the braising liquid through a fat separator. Discard the bay leaves and put the vegetables in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add 1 ½ cups of degreased braising liquid to the food processor and pulse to mix. Return the sauce to the pot and check for salt and pepper. Bury the ribs in the sauce, cover and leave at the back of the stove until ready to serve.
-Heat the ribs in the sauce.
-Distribute the short ribs among four shallow bowls. Top each with a spoonful of sauce. Put the rest of the sauce in a bowl to sit at the table, with a bowl of horseradish if you wish.
Chef Rāsheeda Purdie’s Watermelon Poke with Teriyaki Sauce
Ingredients Teriyaki Sauce
- 1 cup of soy (low sodium)
- 1 cup of water
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
- 5 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons of honey
- cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
-Mix 1 cup of water, brown sugar, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat.
-In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water and mix until dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pot.
-Heat the sauce until it thickens to the desired thickness. If the sauce becomes too thick, add more water to thin the sauce.
– Cut 1 small watermelon * into cubes 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. Transfer to a large bowl or container. * keep the watermelon rind for the coleslaw
-Pour the teriyaki sauce over the watermelon and mix gently.
– Refrigerate for a few hours, up to one night.