Because the celebration of Kwanzaa is meant to incorporate creative and improvisatory elements, there is no set menu for a Kwanzaa feast. Foods from any part of the African diaspora are appropriate.
For some people, each one of the seven days of Kwanzaa is celebrated with a special meal featuring a different cuisine: Caribbean, African, Brazilian, African-American. Others may choose to have just one large meal, the Karamu Feast, on the final day of Kwanzaa.
Two recipes from "Kwanzaa: An African American Celebration of Culture and Cooking" by Eric V. Copage show two different ways of preparing black-eyed peas:
Black-eyed pea salad with basil vinaigrette
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over (about 8 ounces) (See note)
1 medium onion, halved
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 3/4 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, crushed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
In a medium saucepan, combine the peas and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, and boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let stand 1 hour. (Or soak the beans overnight in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch.)
Drain the peas and return them to the saucepan with enough fresh water to cover by 1 inch. Add the onion halves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Drain the beans well, discarding the onion halves. Rinse the beans under cold running water, drain again, and let cool completely.
Note: Two 16-ounce cans of black-eyed peas, well drained, can be used instead of cooking the dried beans. Continue the recipe from this point.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, basil, garlic sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil until the basil vinaigrette is smooth.
In a medium bowl, combine the peas, the chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, and basil vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.
The next recipe is an updated way of fixing jolof rice, a classic West African dish:
New tradition jolof rice Serves 8.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
3 quarts water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 (3 pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
8 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 -inch-thick rounds
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
Combine the black-eyed peas with enough water to cover by 1 inch in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook for 1 minute. Then remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let stand for 1 hour. (Or soak the peas overnight in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch.) Drain the peas well.
Place the black-eyed peas in a 5-quart Dutch oven and add the 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes. Drain the peas in a colander set over a large bowl, reserving both the peas and 4 cups of the cooking liquid; discard the remaining cooking liquid.
Heat the oil in a 5-quart flameproof casserole. In batches, add the chicken and cook 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 aside.
Add the onions, garlic, and ginger to the casserole and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the curry powder and cayenne, and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt; bring to a boil. Stir in the brown rice, reserved black-eyed peas, and carrots and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the casserole, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stir the green beans into the rice mixture, cover and transfer the casserole to the oven. Bake until the rice is tender and the chicken shows no signs of pink at the bone when prodded with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.
The following recipe for baked chicken was adapted from "West African Cooking for Black American Families" by Dr. Adele B. McQueen and Alan L. McQueen:
Baked chicken Serves 4.
1 roasting chicken, 2 pounds or larger
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
red pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Wash and dry chicken inside and out.
Rub inside cavity and outside of chicken with seasonings (salt, black pepper, red pepper).
Put vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan and heat. Sprinkle chicken with flour and brown on all sides. Remove chicken to a roasting pan.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Into a saucepan, put 1/4 cup oil and 1 tablespoon flour. Brown while stirring. Add onion and pepper and cook until opaque. Put in tomato paste and enough water to make a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour over chicken.
Roast with breast down for 25 minutes in the oven. Remove chicken, turn and baste with sauce from the bottom of the pan. Return to oven and roast for 25 minutes. Brush with sauce again and finish roasting for final 10 minutes or until done. Serve over cooked rice or couscous.