This past month, I had the pleasure of photographing the April event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s Marin County Cooking Class event featured Eco-Chef Bryant Terry of Oakland, California. Chef Terry is an activist, chef and author of “Afro-Vegan,” named one of Amazon.com’s best cookbooks of 2014. Chef Terry’s food philosophy is based on “food justice” — the idea that healthy, affordable food should be accessible to everyone regardless of race, income or geography and that food is an everyday right, not a privilege. As an educator, Chef Terry teaches people to be more mindful in their food choices, focusing on a plant-centered diet to address the current health crisis, as well as empowering the community to find solutions to their health and diet issues. Bryant graduated from the Chef’s Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. He was named by the US State Department as one of 80 chefs in the new American Chef Corps in 2012, and appeared on Ebony Magazine’s list of the “Power 100″ in 2011. His food is described as “farm-fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern flavors remixed.” I tried following a vegan diet for a few months a couple of years ago and had a tough time thinking of new things to cook, so I was eager to try Chef Terry’s creations!
The dinner began with a delicious appetizer of Texas Caviar on Grilled Rustic Bread. These toasts tasted liked an Italian Bruschetta, but African style!
The Texas Caviar included sun-dried tomatoes, black-eyed peas, lots of fried garlic — yum!, heirloom tomatoes, green and yellow bell peppers, red onion, and chiles (plus some vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and cilantro). Chef Terry shared that the older your dried beans are, the longer they’ll take to cook. He suggested that dried beans should be soaked to neutralize the phytic acid in beans, so that they’ll ultimately be easier to digest. One should discard the soaking water and then add salt to the beans. Salt should not be a added at the very beginning of cooking as it will inhibit cooking time. I’ll admit that I’m super lazy when it comes to beans and would much rather open up a can of cooked beans and dump ’em into a pot, but if I was ever to get in a bean-cooking mood, all these tips would be really helpful :).
These tasty toasts were followed by a delicious and hearty Dandelion Salad with Pecan Dressing. I’m a huge fan of pecans, so this salad was right up my alley. My husband, however, who doesn’t care for nuts much but loves creamy dressings, loved the pecan dressing and asked me to make it at home. What a great idea to add ground-up nuts to a dressing to give it more body and add an extra dose of healthy fats.
Chef Terry added supremed sweet oranges to counterbalance the bitterness of the greens.
The dandelion leaves tasted similar to kale. Hmm…I wonder if I could eat the dandelion leaves growing all over my lawn.
The main dish of the evening was Tofu Curry with Smoky Mustard Greens and Brown Basmati Rice. This dish was nice and homey — vegan comfort food!
Chef Terry shared that a good curry has cardamon and that it’s best to make your own curry, which he does by grinding spices with a mortar and pestle. Chef Terry said that he collects mortar and pestles from around the world and has acquired approximately 30 of them by now.
Chef Terry shared that some people may shy away from tofu, but that tofu soaks up the flavors of many dishes and that finding artisan tofu, like his recommended Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland, makes a huge difference. He also taught that mustard greens can sometimes be bitter, but if you blanch them, the bitterness subsides.
The dinner ended with a delicious Cocoa-Spice Cake with Crystallized Ginger and Coconut-Chocolate Ganache.
The secret ingredient of this delicious cake was avocado, which gave it a deep creamy flavor. Of course, I’m sure the addition of dark Jamaican rum to the recipe didn’t hurt either!
It was a great evening, and the things he shared made me really think about food justice and equality. Plus, he showed us that each of his recipes in his cookbook is paired with a selected song and that evening he rapped for us, so what’s not to like! ;)
Check back in June for the next Marin Cooking Class Event featuring Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Resturant in Santa Rosa, CA with Dave the Butcher who will be butchering an entire pig! In the meantime, here’s a great salad recipe to try courtesy of Chef Bryant Terry. See you next month!
Dandelion Salad with Pecan Dressing
For the dressing:
6 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the salad:
7 large tangerines
6 cups torn stemmed dandelion greens
3/4 cup chopped sugared pecans
freshly ground black pepper
1. To make dressing, combine pecans, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, cilantro and salt in a blender and process until smooth.
2. With the motor running, slowly pour in oil and process until creamy. Taste and season with more salt if desired.
3. To make salad, use a sharp knife to remove rind and bitter white pith from tangerine. Holding fruit over large bowl to catch juices and sections, cut just inside membrane of each section and loosen until it falls into bowl. Discard any seeds.
4. Add dandelion greens and pecans. Pour enough dressing to lightly coat salad, saving any remaining dressing for another use, and gently toss. Season each serving with few grinds of black pepper.
Makes 4 cups
4 cups pecans
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1. Put pecans in large bowl and drizzle with oil and stir until coated. Sprinkle with sugar and stir until coated.
2. Warm a large, dry cast-iron skillet over med-high heat until hot. Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and most of liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes.
3. Transfer pecans to parchment paper and quickly spread out and separate with forks. Let cool to room temperature, stored in sealed container at room temp for a few weeks.