Soul Food Love Recipes
These incredible dishes are just a small selection of the dozens of recipes included in the book. The recipes are the work of a daughter who searched out the healthier bites and bits from her family’s cooking history and remixed the best of the rest into something greener, into something healthier and easier— working beside a mother determined to change her own foodways so that she might change her daughter’s food future. This is the story of our search for a kitchen where what’s good is good for you.
And nothing is finer than a good taste on a healthy tongue.
SPICY PEPPER CHICKEN
Nashville is famous for its “Hot Chicken.” I like to get mine from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. It’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and it comes decorated with a thin round of bright green pickle that calls to mind a gold medal. Prince’s chicken is so hot, it can make a body see things. Speak in tongues. Change lives. This chicken is also fried. Now, I’ve already told you what I think about regular fried chicken—that it’s a bad boyfriend you’ve just got to give up.
But this hot chicken here? You can eat my Spicy Pepper Chicken whenever you like, and it’s a friend you’ll want to keep around. You feel me?
- 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 1⁄3 cup olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (3- to 4lb) chicken
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Mix the cayenne, olive oil, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
Remove the giblets, neck, and liver packet—anything stuffed in the interior of the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry. Put the chicken in a baking dish with low sides. Season it generously with salt and pepper inside and out. Starting at the neck of the chicken, and making sure to break no more of the skin than you have to, rub the oil mixture onto the chicken flesh, including the legs. The whole chicken should appear reddish.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes to crisp the skin, then turn the heat down to 400°F. Continue to roast the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. The juices should run clear and colorless when you pierce a thigh. This can take another 25 to 40 minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.
NEW-SCHOOL “FRUIT” SALAD
Fruit salad is a soul food staple. Whether we’re talking about delectable-enough-for-the- Christmas-table ambrosia, or old-school fruit cocktail eaten straight from the can, mixed fruits in various forms and fashions were served in Dear’s, Grandma’s, Nana’s, and Mama’s kitchens.
But let’s just admit right now that commercial fruit cocktail is an abomination that should never be served to anybody’s child. The way the fruit is processed, there’s almost no fiber, few vitamins, too much sugar, and too many calories. It needs to be stricken from school cafeteria menus, from recipes, and from pantry shelves. Instead, make this new-school fruit salad, which tastes great, looks beautiful, packs nutrients, and rights old wrongs.
What other old wrong might that be? Stigmatizing eating watermelon. We know black families who refuse to this day to let their children eat watermelon in public because they don’t want to reinforce stereotypes. But guess what? Watermelon is a fat-free taste treat that everyone should enjoy. So we chop what was traditionally sliced and introduce new fruits to the mix. As an added bonus, this salad is also something of a botany lesson. Many people forget that avocados are fruits. Same with tomatoes. This recipe is a tasty reminder.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt
- 2 pinches of pepper
- 1⁄4 medium watermelon, preferably seedless
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 2 avocados, diced
- 3⁄4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.
Remove the rind from the watermelon and chop the flesh into ½-inch cubes. Combine with the tomatoes and avocados in a serving bowl, and gently toss.
Add the feta cheese and the dressing, and toss again.
HONEY PEANUT BRITTLE
Makes 12 pieces
Tammy Horn is a professor at Berea College who wrote Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation. She notes that many enslaved African Americans came from beekeeping countries and brought their honey-hunting skills to America. From looking at recipes and songs, she concludes that some Africans used honey before coming to America and incorporated it into plantation menus. Native American groups bartered beeswax and honey with enslaved people as well as French traders and English, German, and Dutch settlers.
This candy deliciously celebrates those all but forgotten intertwinings in early American society. It also celebrates George Washington Carver, who advocated for everything peanut— as well as sweet potato. And for us most important, it celebrates B.B. Bright, the fairy-tale princess I invented in the doctor’s office when I was about three. B.B. is a brown beekeeper. If you’re going to eat candy, we think you should make it. Having to make my own certainly cuts down on the amount of candy I eat.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter,
- plus more for the pan
- 4 cups dry-roasted peanuts
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
Butter a baking sheet.
In a deep pot, bring the nuts, sugar, honey, and lemon juice to a simmer over high heat, mixing constantly to make sure not to burn the sugar. Boil the sugar mixture until it reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, another way to test the temperature is to drop a bit of the mixture into a glass of ice water. If it hardens, you’re all set!) Once the sugar begins to darken, carefully stir in the baking soda, butter, and salt. The sugar will fluff up from the baking soda, so be careful. Pour the brittle mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and allow it to cool completely before breaking it into pieces.
Put the brittle in a sealed container or plastic bag, and store it somewhere cool and dry—if you’ve got any left once you’ve tasted it!