February is Black History Month and with it comes A Taste of Ebony, a food challenge hosted by Joelen of Joelen’s Culinary Adventures highlighting the work and recipes of Black chefs and food celebrities. When I began TriniGourmet Black food personalities were almost a shadow presence, and though I am glad to see, over the past year, the Food Network integrating African-Americans into its lineup, it still strikes me as unfortunate that an actual chef such as Marcus Samuelsson is relegated to a tundra timeslot on a niche channel such as BET Jazz, or that African-Americans who cook foods outside of the traditional Southern mold seem to find it harder to pitch their work to the mainstream. Case in point, the chef whose recipe I chose for this challenge, Bryant Terry.
Bryant Terry is a self-styled Eco Chef, Author, and Food Justice Activist. (synopsis). Bryant’s work and recipes have been featured in Gourmet, Food and Wine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Vibe, Domino, and many other publications. I first became aware of him thanks to those notices that Facebook gives at times telling you what pages your friends have become ‘fans’ of. The title of his newest release Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisinewas too magnetic to ignore and I was compelled to not only fan him but to spend a few hours exploring his work and interviews.
Although Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisinewon’t be published until March it is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Publisher’s Weekly had the following to say about it:
In this electric, eclectic collection of vegan soul food, West Coast chef Bryant Terry manages not only to demystify classic southern cooking, he makes it healthier and more accessible. With a low-key approach, commonly sourced ingredients and recipes worthy of any palette, Terry avoids the didacticism and rigidity of other vegan cookbooks. An impressive amount of information for each recipe, including entertainment recommendations, is also provided. Many dishes will make the list of to-trys: a riff on the traditional Gumbo Z’Herbs that’s traditionally eaten during Lent; a roasted potato salad with a parsley-pine nut pesto; and the ubiquitous chow-chow, a vinegar-laced relish that’s indispensable with greens. Terry’s simplicity is also commendable: a side of wilted swiss chard and spinach with lemon-tahini dressing is a healthier, creamier alternative to Caesar salad, and his Simple Seared Green Beans are a terrific way to enjoy the vegetable at its peak; classic treats like peach cobbler and mint juleps are also included. Though something of a Pyrrhic victory—a terrific and tasty collection of healthy Southern variations unfortunately relegated to the “vegan” ghetto—Terry’s latest will make a happy discovery for cooks of any dietary persuasions.
In addition to Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine, Terry is also the co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, which was called “ingenious” by The New York Times Magazine, and won a 2007 Nautilus Book Award.
Terry’s passion for his stance on community stance agriculture runs throughout his work, and his recipes are peppered with musical and cinematic references. Ideal for a pop culture junkie such as myself who has also written in the past about my own feelings regarding urban farming. Although he is a huge advocate of consuming ‘living foods’ grown as close to home as possible, he is not an absolutist on either the raw front, or the vegan front, preferring instead to see these dietary choices as the preferable end of a more inclusive dietary lifestyle.
“One lie that most people need to unlearn is that we need to cook most of our food. While I would not consider myself a “raw foodist,” I certainly include lots of uncooked plant-based foods in my diet (especially during the summer and early fall). Living and raw foods have enormously higher nutrient values than foods that have been cooked. It’s not about being extreme either way, but most of us could stand to have a few more crunchy veggies in our diet.”
Keeping that in mind, one can then see how Chef Terry can write a vegan cookbook on one hand, and have this recipe for frittata sandwiches on the other. Only the most fundamentalist ideologue on either side would probably object, I most certainly don’t!
I tried this recipe not only because I wanted to highlight Chef Terry and his work, but also because I wanted to excuse to finally try one of his recipes. Although I am wary of egg sandwiches (I avoid them like the plague) this recipe definitely blew my mind. I think its success relied on two things that normally have kept me away from egg sandwiches.
1) The toasted bread didn’t get soggy so it didn’t turn into ‘mush’ when bitten into.
2) Adding lemon zest to the egg mixture prevented the frittata from developing an overpowering ‘egginess’, giving it instead a distinctly floral overlay instead. Unexpected and instantly appreciated!
These factors combined with the hot red pepper flakes, melted cheese and liberal use of thyme, create an incredibly complex flavour profile. I followed the recipe pretty faithfully with 2 minor adjustments. Instead of red peppers I used diced tomatoes, and I used frozen pre-sliced garlic bread as that was what was on-hand. I assembled everything while watching the Grammys and J and I munched on them throughout the ceremonies. At the end of the evening, he happily carried with him the slight amount that was left over for the next day’s breakfast. I really spoil this boy!
Cajun-spiced, Open-faced Red Pepper Frittata Sandwiches
Source: Chef Bryant Terry
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. plus more for brushing
1 medium onion, very finely diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves for garnish
1/2 teaspoon coarsely chopped oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
6 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 ounces aged Asiago cheese, coarsely shredded on a box grater (3/4 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 whole wheat baguette—ends trimmed, loaf halved lengthwise and crosswise
1. In a 10-inch, ovenproof nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the diced onion, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder and a large pinch of salt and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until the onion is browned, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet along with the diced red bell pepper and cook until the pepper is softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir the chopped thyme, oregano and lemon zest into the onion and pepper mixture.
2. Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs well. Whisk in the whole milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Return the skillet to moderately low heat and stir in the shredded Asiago cheese. Pour in the beaten eggs and stir lightly to mix the vegetables and eggs. Season with black pepper, cover the skillet and cook until the eggs pull away from the side of the skillet, about 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, brush the cut sides of the baguette with olive oil and arrange on a cookie sheet, cut sides up. Broil the bread 6 inches from the heat for about 3 minutes, or until toasted.
4. Uncover the frittata and place under the broiler until just set and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
5. Carefully slide the frittata onto a work surface and using a sharp knife, cut it into 4 pieces, each about same size as the bread slices (there will be some leftovers). Set the warm frittata pieces on the baguette toasts, sprinkle with the thyme leaves and serve.