“America the Great Cookbook” edited by Joe Yonan
What is American food, and what do you cook for the ones you love?
Those are the questions behind the “America the Great Cookbook,” a collection of recipes from “100 of our finest chefs and food heroes,” the publishers boast. Those chefs and heroes include big names on the national food scene like Andrew Zimmern, Ruth Reichl, Marcus Samuelsson and David Chang.
But it’s not all New York City culinary personalities. America does, after all, exist beyond the big cities, and the book surveys a variety of characters on the food scene from all across the country. Representing Colorado in the book are chef Hugo Matheson, spice expert Simone Cormier, and food writers Adrian Miller and Toni Tipton-Martin.
“I just think of American food as the world coming together in many unique ways,” Miller said. “To me, American food is all about fusion.”
“America the Great” does a nice job of digging into true American food, burrowing beyond the stereotypical crust of apple pie and going deeper than cheeseburgers. (Although those are in there.)
Take, for example, the recipes provided by the Colorado contributors:
Miller, known around town as the “soul food scholar,” shared his late mother’s recipe for smoked turkey-laced mixed greens and the African- and Caribbean-rooted drink, Hibiscus-Aid.
“My angle is soul food, and I’m trying to get more people to think of soul food positively. I purposely added two soul food recipes with a healthy spin. I think people are hating on it because they think it’s unhealthy, but dark greens are great for you; hibiscus petals have a lot of great properties. I wanted to show that face of soul food … . I want people to understand that African-American food is American food. We shouldn’t think of it as a separate thing. It’s part of the American food story,” Miller said.
Contrast that with The Kitchen co-founder Matheson’s quinoa-heavy, oh-so-Boulder veggie bowl from his farm-to-table restaurant, Next Door American Eatery. Or Cormier’s recipe for pork paté with cherries and hazelnuts. Or Tipton-Martin’s crumbly-sweet blueberry buckle dessert.
The only thread tying all of these dishes together is that their creators live in America.
“Nowadays, American food is really like the culture — it’s made up of the world,” Matheson, who’s from England, said. “I think that’s changed a lot more in the last 15-20 years, as many more cultures were brought up together. You see much more of an influence from different parts of the world.”
Matheson chose the veggie bowl for the book because it’s something he and his family eat at home a couple times a week. With a vegetarian wife and sometimes-picky kids, he appreciates the everyone’s-happy flexibility of cooking up a variety of veggies and proteins and letting each person choose for themselves what goes into the bowl.
Plus, he can change up the sauce with Indian, Mexican or barbecue seasonings to keep the flavors interesting, all while upholding that maverick, all-American theme of endless possibilities.
Other recipes in the cookbook are just as diverse. From blackened catfish to garlic uni fried rice to spaghetti al sugo finto (mushroom ragu), it’s clear that the saying “As American as …” can mean anything, really, because delicious knows no race, creed or political geography.
Here are Colorado’s contributions:
From food and nutrition journalist Toni Tipton-Martin, author of “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.” She splits her time between Austin, Texas, and Denver. Recipe from the “America the Great Cookbook” (Weldon Owen, 2017).
Makes 8-9 servings
½ cup sugar ⅓ cup all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon Pinch of salt ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting 1½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ cup (60 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature ¼ cup (60 g) shortening ½ cup (100 g) sugar 1 large egg 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest 6 tablespoons milk ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed and well drained if frozen
For the Crumb Topping, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside until ready to use.
For the Blueberry Cake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch round baking pan with butter and dust lightly with flour, tapping out any excess.
In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and shortening until light. Gradually beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and lemon zest. Beat in half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and milk. Add the vanilla and beat until well mixed.
Spread the batter in the baking pan. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the batter and top with the crumb topping. Bake until the topping is browned and the berries begin to bubble, 45-50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.
Country Pork Pâté with Cherries and Hazelnuts
Country Pork Pate with Cherries and Hazelnuts
From Simone Cormier, national spice coordinator for Whole Foods Markets and director of the board of directors at the American Spice Trade Association. Recipe from the “America the Great Cookbook” (Weldon Owen, 2017).
Makes about 12 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil 1 yellow onion, chopped 2 bay leaves 2-3 large cloves garlic, chopped 2 large fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only ½ pound chicken livers, trimmed of excessive connective tissue and/or fat 1¾ teaspoon sea salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper 3 tablespoons tawny or ruby port 1 tablespoon Scotch whisky 1½ pounds ground pork 2 large eggs 1/3 cup dried sweet cherries ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted 1½ tablespoons green peppercorns (freeze-dried or preserved in brine, drained) ¾ pound bacon slices
Baguette slices Cornichons Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil along with the onion and bay leaves and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until the onion and garlic are softened and only very lightly browned, about another 5 minutes. Add the chicken livers, salt, and pepper and cook the livers for a couple of minutes per side. Turn up the heat, add the port and Scotch, and stir to deglaze the pan. Reduce the alcohol until the pan is almost dry, 1-2 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaves. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process to a relatively smooth puree. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the pork and eggs to the food processor and process to a medium-coarse puree, about 1 minute. Transfer to the same bowl and add the cherries, hazelnuts, and green peppercorns to the bowl. Mix well to evenly distribute the ingredients. Sauté a nugget of the mixture in a little oil to taste for seasoning, then add salt and pepper as needed, oversalting a bit since the pâté will be served cold.
Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan crosswise with the bacon slices, reserving some for the top. Pack the pâté mixture into the pan and tap the pan lightly on the counter to ensure the contents are packed down firmly. Fold the ends of the bacon over the sides and lay out the remaining bacon over the top lengthwise. Trim the bacon slices as needed to fit the length of the pan. Pat the bacon slices down to adhere to the pâté mixture.
Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet to catchy any juices that may overflow. Place in a preheated oven and bake until the internal temperature registers 185°F, about 1¾ hours. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Place a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil over the top. Place another loaf pan over this and weight it down (with canned goods, for example). Refrigerate overnight.
To unmold, first run a knife around the inside of the loaf pan. Either turn the pan over onto a cutting board and tap gently on the pan to release the pâté, or place the pan briefly over a burner’s flame to liquefy the fat and cooking juices, which will release the pâté from the pan. Scrape off the solidified fat and cooking juices before cutting into slices ½ inch thick. Serve cold, with baguette slices, cornichons, and Dijon mustard alongside.
Notes: The beauty of this recipe is the endless variations that are possible. Change up the types of dried fruits, nuts, alcohol, and spices; adjust the smoothness or chunkiness of the liver or pork mixture; change the type of liver to pork, veal, duck or game; layer the fruits or nuts; add layers of different meats, such as skinned duck breasts or boned quail.
From James Beard Award-winning Adrian Miller, Denver author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time” (University of North Carolina Press, 2103) and “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas” (The University of North Carolina Press, 2017). Recipe from the “America the Great Cookbook” (Weldon Owen, 2017).
Makes 2 quarts
2 quarts water 2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger ½ cup fresh or dried food-grade hibiscus blossoms ½ to 1 cup sugar (or honey or agave nectar) Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons)
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the ginger, hibiscus, and sugar to taste (if you want a tarter drink, use half the quantity of sweetener). Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Cover and let cool to room temperature. Strain into a large pitcher. Stir in the lime juice and refrigerate until chilled. Serve cold.
Notes: Dried hibiscus flowers should be available in your supermarket produce section or at any market catering to a Latino clientele. This recipe comes courtesy of the College of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service’s cookbook Native Recipes, published in 1978.
Johnetta Miller’s Mixed Greens
By Adrian Miller, from the “America the Great Cookbook” (Weldon Owen, 2017).
Makes 8 servings
2 smoked ham hocks, or smoked turkey legs or wings (about 1 pound) 1½ pounds turnip greens 1½ pounds mustard greens 1 tablespoon granulated garlic, or 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 yellow onion, chopped or split in half Pinch of red pepper flakes Pinch of baking soda Pinch of sugar Pinch of salt
Place the hocks in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the meat is tender and the cooking liquid is flavorful, 20-30 minutes. Remove the hocks from the pot and set aside.
Meanwhile, remove and discard the tough stems from the greens. Cut or tear the leaves into large, bite-sized pieces. Fill a clean sink or very large bowl with cold water. Add the leaves and gently swish them in the water to remove any dirt or grit. Lift the leaves out of the water and add them to the hot stock, stirring gently until they wilt and are submerged.
Stir in the onion, pepper flakes, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Simmer until the greens are tender, about 30 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve hot.
Cut or shred the meat from the hocks and mix with the greens before serving.
Notes: If substituting collard greens or kale in this recipe, double the cooking time for the greens.
Next Door Veggie Bowl
Hugo Matheson is chef and co-founder of The Kitchen family of restaurants, which include The Kitchen, The Kitchen Upstairs and Next Door in Boulder, Denver and elsewhere. Matheson lives in Boulder. Recipe from the “America the Great Cookbook” (Weldon Owen, 2017).
Makes 4 servings
Cilantro Tahini Dressing 3 tablespoons tahini 3 cloves garlic Pinch of ground coriander Pinch of ground cumin 2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice ½ cup canola oil 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro Salt
1¼ cups quinoa, rinsed 2½ cups water Pinch of salt 1 cup canola oil 1 cup bite-sized cauliflower florets 1 cup broccolini 1 cup (90 g) cremini mushrooms 2 tbsp olive oil ½ yellow onion, diced large ½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced large 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice ¼ cup (sunflower seeds 2 tablespoons sesame seeds ¼ cup sliced green onions
For the Cilantro Tahini Dressing, place the tahini, garlic, coriander, cumin, Sriracha sauce, and lemon juice in a blender and blend for 1 minute. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil, then add the cilantro and blend for another 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and refrigerate until needed. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
For the Veggie Bowl, place the quinoa in a pot, add the water and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, still covered, to steam for another 15 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with fork.
In a small pot, heat the canola oil over medium heat to 350°F. Line a plate with paper towels. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the quinoa into the oil and fry until browned, 4-5 minutes. Make sure to separate any large clumps. Using a fine-mesh sieve placed over another small pot or other heatproof container, drain the quinoa and place on the lined plate to drain. Season with a pinch of salt and set aside at room temperature. Discard the oil (or reserve a little for dressing the salad if desired).
Preheat the broiler. Place the cauliflower florets and whole broccolini in even rows on a baking sheet, making sure not to crowd the vegetables. Broil until the cauliflower is browned and the florets on the broccolini are browned, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the broiler.
Cut the mushrooms into quarters and toss with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread on a baking sheet and broil until browned, 5-6 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the mushrooms to a plate to make sure they don’t dry out.
Place the yellow onion and bell pepper on a separate baking sheet and broil until browned, 5-6 minutes. Do not broil them on the same sheet as the mushrooms, as this will add too much moisture to them and they will not brown. Remove the vegetables but leave the broiler on.
On a serving platter or in individual bowls, place the boiled quinoa down first. Dress with half the cilantro tahini dressing. Spread all the vegetables on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 30 seconds to get hot again. Season with salt and the lemon juice. Mix the vegetables together and place on top of the dressed quinoa. Drizzle the remaining dressing and the reserved oil (if using) over the vegetables. Garnish with the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, fried quinoa, and green onions.