A Kwanzaa salutes to African cuisine Festival: Celebrate the holiday's focus on unity, faith and cooperation with foods that salute the creativity of black cooks.

December 24, 1997|By Jessica B. Harris | Jessica B. Harris,EATING WELL

As a holiday, Kwanzaa is in its infancy, yet in its 31-year history, it has blossomed from a small observance by dedicated black nationalists into an event that serves as a cultural touchstone for some 13 million members of the African-American community.

Kwanzaa is based on seven principles that are the focus of the celebrations. From Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, each evening is devoted to one of the principles, beginning with unity and ending with faith. Kwanzaa was designed as both a time for introspection and a forum for reinforcing the virtues of home and community. That leaves the interpretation of these core values open to improvisation and allows celebrants to orchestrate festivities around their individual talents.

I offer my culinary Kwanzaa here as a testimonial to the creativity of black cooks everywhere. The recipes that follow are an exploration of African cuisine -- appropriate for this season or any time of the year.

* Terra-Cotta Stewed Chicken: This is an adaptation of Kedjenou, a dish traditionally prepared in a canari, or terra-cotta pot. It is sealed with a banana leaf, placed in the ashes of an open fire, and left to cook until it forms a succulent stew.

* Avocado and Papaya Salad: Salads, in the Western sense, are recent additions to the African table, but they are catching on. This one is inspired by a salad from Kenya's colonial period.

* Pumpkin Doughnuts: Fritters are much loved all over Africa, and turn up from one end of the meal to the other. These dessert doughnuts are baked rather than fried.

Terra-Cotta Stewed Chicken

Makes about 8 cups for 6 servings

12 bone-in chicken thighs (3 to 3-1/2 pounds), skinned and trimmed of fat

4 onions, coarsely chopped

1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 habanero chili, pierced with a fork

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Note: If using a clay cooker, first soak cooker in cold water for 15 minutes. Add ingredients, cover and place in a cold oven. Set oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 2 hours, or until chicken is falling off the bone.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a Dutch oven or other oven-proof casserole with a lid, combine chicken, onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger.

Tie chili and bay leaf in cheesecloth and add to chicken mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and place lid firmly on top so that no steam escapes.

Bake chicken for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, or until very tender and falling off the bone. (Do not lift the lid until the minimum time has elapsed.) Discard cheesecloth bag. Tilt pot and skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. (The chicken will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat before serving.) Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 310 calories; 32 grams protein; 13 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated fat); 16 grams carbohydrate; 320 mg sodium; 107 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fiber.

Avocado and Papaya Salad

Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 ripe papayas

2 ruby-red grapefruit

1 medium avocado

1 small head red leaf lettuce, washed and dried

1/4 cup minced red onion

In a small bowl, whisk lime juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut papayas in half lengthwise. With a paring knife, remove skin. Scoop out and discard seeds. Thinly slice fruit.

With a paring knife, remove skin and white pith from grapefruit. Working over a bowl to catch any juices, cut grapefruit sections from their membranes.

Halve, peel, pit and thinly slice avocado.

Line a large platter with lettuce leaves and arrange papaya, grapefruit and avocado slices decoratively on top. Add grapefruit juices to dressing and drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with red onion. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 120 calories; 2 grams protein; 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 15 grams carbohydrate; 5 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fiber.

Pumpkin Doughnuts

Makes 1 dozen doughnuts

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 large egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/2 cup canned unseasoned pumpkin puree

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a mini-bundt pan or coat it with nonstick spray. Coat molds with 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, tapping out the excess.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

In another large bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, oil and lemon zest. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each mold. (You will use half the batter.)

Bake doughnuts for 14 to 15 minutes, or until puffed and browned. Loosen edges and invert onto a wire rack to cool. Clean pan and recoat it with oil or nonstick spray and remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve the same day.

Per doughnut: 205 calories; 3 grams protein; 4 grams fat (0.6 gram saturated fat); 39 grams carbohydrate; 265 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fiber.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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