Authors celebrate heritage with food Cookbooks: One starts with life in the South. The other focuses on African-American holidays.

December 03, 1997|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

The culinary and performing arts are equally important in the life of Alexander Smalls, a self-described "social minister" of food with "a Southern presence, a Southern edge."

With a song on his lips and food in his heart, this internationally acclaimed opera singer and successful New York restaurateur continually has expanded his horizons beyond his native South Carolina. How he has mastered both roles is delightfully detailed in "Grace the Table: Stories & Recipes From My Southern Revival," by Alexander Smalls (HarperCollins, $25).

Here you will meet the Smalls family, from the author's mother and grandfather, both outstanding cooks, to Uncle Joe, who taught his nephew that "a cooking spoon was like a magic wand in a kitchen of great adventure." The author takes off on an adventure of his own, through his music education, as an award-winning baritone, and as owner of the highly touted bistro Cafe Beulah. He recently opened a second Big Apple restaurant, Sweet Ophelia.

Quite different but equally manageable is "Ideas for Entertaining From the African-American Kitchen," by Angela Shelf Medearis (Dutton, $27.95). Here the focus is on holiday entertaining, from Emancipation Day (Jan. 1) to Kwanzaa (beginning Dec. 26).

Medearis also is the author of "The African-American Kitchen" (Dutton, 1994), which recently has been published in a paperback edition (Plume, $14.95).

Sweet Potato Waffles

Makes 10 servings

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup cold water

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed

2 eggs beaten

2 1/2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoon sugar

Beat all wet ingredients (this includes the sweet potatoes) in a medium-size bowl. Mix all dry ingredients in another medium-size bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Follow manufacturer's instructions on using waffle iron. Pour batter into greased waffle iron and cook about 5 minutes.

From "Grace the Table"

Gingerbread With Lemon Sauce

Makes 8 to 10 servings

GINGERBREAD:

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2 eggs

3/4 cup molasses

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon of vinegar mixed with 1 cup milk)

LEMON SAUCE:

1 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon butter

juice of 1 lemon

To make the gingerbread, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan. Combine the sugar, shortening and eggs in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Stir in the molasses. Sift the flour, soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt in a medium bow. Add small amounts of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk until the ingredients are well blended. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

To make the lemon sauce, combine the sugar, egg, butter and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring well, until thick, 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon warm sauce on individual servings.

From "Ideas for Entertaining From the African-American Kitchen."

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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