Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora
Twas the eve of Kwanzaa, and all through our house, we will rest in peace after unwrapping Christmas gifts with glee. This year, my household of two starts a new tradition of celebrating Kwanzaa. Our Christmas tree is brought mere days from the 25th. I want it to stay fresh into the New Year when we celebrate the last principle, Imani. It’ll be our Kwanzaa Christmas tree.
Honoring the Ujamaa principle, ornaments will be hung with care, and they will be chosen from local shops or specialty artists of color. Our tree skirt is inexpensive scrap fabric brought from a local West African shop for $5. It still has jagged edges from being cut out from a clothing pattern. Quite honestly, I haven’t found a kinara within my design aesthetic. Until I find one, I will light a beeswax or soy based candle instead. On each day of Kwanzaa, we will write the principle of the day and how it affects us on gift tags to hang on our tree. Our first meal of Kwanzaa will be left over dinner from Christmas. Perhaps, during the week, I might want to try Funke’s Mussels in Pumpkin Leaves Soup (unavailable ingredients not found in New York will be substituted).
For your Kwanzaa events, try any of our recipes located here. My 2012 addition to the list is Black-eye Pea and Wild Brown Rice Risotto served with seared baby lamb chops and saute Swiss Chard. The risotto is inspired from a New York Times recipe by Mark Bittman that pre-cooks the rice before proceeding with the risotto recipe. It’s healthier with a nutty flavor then the classic version made with Arborio rice. It has the same cheesy and rich taste to enjoy with seared baby lamb chops. Of course, no dinner is complete without a green leafy vegetable, such as sauté Swiss Chard. Perhaps, this meal will become our traditional Kwanzaa dinner for our household.
By the time Kwanzaa starts, we’re exhausted from all the holiday shopping. Our wallets are empty from being pressured into spending too much money on gifts that mostly bring temporary moments of joy. Last Sunday, the preacher asked us to remember our favorite holiday gift. Those childhood gifts are almost forgotten, but my family first came to my mind. Growing up, my family didn’t celebrate Kwanzaa. Within my own household (a relatively new part of my life), I hope we make our Kwanzaa celebrations of the past; today and future become beautiful memories, too.
Black Eye Pea and Wild Brown Rice Risotto
Inspired by Mark Bittman of the NYTimes’ article, A Different Shade of Risotto. The original recipe is here.
1 tsp. + 4 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup whole-grain, wild brown rice
1-1/2 cups water; room temperature
3 cups low-sodium, chicken stock
½ cup white wine*
3 to 4 strips of bacon (turkey, pork or duck); diced
1 shallot; minced
1 garlic clove; minced
2 celery, finely diced
(Optional) ½ tsp. ground caraway seed
A pinch of crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf
A few twigs of fresh thyme, wrapped in twine
Sea salt and fresh black pepper; as needed
1-14 oz. can black eye peas; drained and rinse
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the wild rice. Stir until each grain is coated in oil and it has a slight nutty fragrance. Add 1-1/2 cups of water. Stir in salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain water and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and fry until golden brown. Remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat chicken stock and wine in a medium pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Place aside with the cover over the pot.
In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, celery, caraway seed, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh black pepper. Frequently stir until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the bay leaf and fresh thyme leaves. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Add ½ cup of the warm chicken stock and wine. Frequently stir until the liquid evaporates. Continue adding ½ cupfuls of the chicken and wine liquid until there is no more. The texture of the rice should be firm to the bite. Adjust seasoning while cooking the risotto.
Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme leaves. Stir in the black-eye peas and bacon. When the black-eye peas are heated, add the Parmesan cheese and parsley.
*Note: Alternatively use ½ cup of chicken stock instead of wine.
Seared Baby Lamb Chops
To get the recipe for seared lamb chops, visit here.
Saute Swiss Chard
1 to 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch of swiss chard; tough stems removed and discarded; leaves roughly chopped
1 small red onion; minced
1 tbsp. white wine
Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the red onion and frequently stir until translucent. Be careful not to burn the onions.
Add the swiss chard. Quickly season with salt and pepper and add a dash of white wine.
Serve swiss chard greens hot.