Thank goodness for Goodreads, because this book is LIT! Not only are the recipes friggin delicious, but Terry’s commentary imbues the text with an importance beyond just taste.
Afro-Vegan is as much a project in acknowledging and documenting a rich, global culinary history as it is an experiment in reworking classic dishes as vegan delicacies. Though he remixes traditional dishes of the African Diaspora, the recipes ultimately stay true to the spirit of the originals, and the book takes readers on a thoughtful, whole-food journey around the world.
Ultimately, the cookbook is more than a cookbook; it’s an experience. Along with his engaging narration and Paige Green’s beautiful photography, Terry accompanies each recipe with a soundtrack and/or reading suggestion spanning from Miles Davis and John Coltrane to Nass Marrakech, Shabazz Palaces, and Joe Cuba. I say suggestion, though I must admit that the teacher in me prefers to think of them as assignments, so I dutifully created a playlist with every single song, and I diligently listen to each song as I cook the corresponding meal…I pretty much treat the book as an extensive syllabus for the illest culinary class you’ve ever taken. The effect is a holistic, multi-sensory experience of the dish, and, I think, a different kind of connection with the food.
Another aspect of the recipes that fosters relationships is that they don’t tend to be quick–this is slow food at its finest, so make sure to plan ahead. Here’s what I tried (with tips and notes for any revisions I made):
- Chermoula Tempeh Bites: This was my boo’s pick, and it’s flavor profile is off. the. chain. Chermoula, used in Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian
cooking, reminds me of a pico de gallo, not because of the taste, but because of the fresh, flavor-packed spicy goodness. In this dish, the chermoula is a marinade for the tempeh. Soo goood! My only deviation from BT: serve hot, not at room temp; tempeh don’t taste good when it gets cooler, at least not to me. We ate this served on a bed of our quick Moroccan-inspired couscous.
- Fresh Peach, Banana, and Warm Millet Smoothie: This recipe takes some planning the night before (cashews and millet have to soak), and you don’t want to hit the snooze button if you’re trying to get this one done before work. Totally worth it, though–protein-rich millet is hearty, and kept me energized all morning, even after teaching back-to-back classes.
- Millet and Sweet Potato Porridge: Another time-consuming recipe, but you can make it the night before–it reheats really nicely, and is super satisfying. I used several small sweet potatoes rather than one large sweet potato, because they were the only organic ones I could find. The dish is really creamy and filling–a great way to start the day.
- Peanut Stew with Winter Vegetables and Cornmeal Dumplings: This was actually the first recipe I tried. I was true to the directions the 1st time, but called myself taking a shortcut the 2nd time by making the dumplings directly in the pot (like I do my own dumplings). Because these are mostly cornmeal and flax-seed meal, they don’t hold up well under soaking conditions, so they fell apart…turned into a thicker stew, but sans dumplings. 🙁 Moral of the story: follow BT’s directions! As far as taste goes, this dish is delightful. The subtle peanut flavor pairs really well with the acidity of the tomato paste, and who doesn’t like a good stew at the onset of fall?
- Couscous with Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Currants: I used halved raisins (yes, I actually painstakingly chopped them in half…) since I
didn’t have currants; I also had to use quinoa (pictured) the first time instead of couscous–that’s why you should check the cabinet before a grocery run. Despite that, this dish came out super scrumptious. The dish is on the sweet side with the Medjool dates and raisins, but the pecans and the salt are just enough to make the dish dance on the tongue, like literally–my mouth was so happy. We ate it with Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens, the perfect savory match. The recipe calls for mustard greens, but collards work fine, too. You do lose a bit of the kick with collards, though. If you have leftovers, eat the rest for breakfast (if you’re not vegan, throw in a boiled egg…though it just now occurred to me that mentioning this specific revision for a vegan cookbook might be considered sacrilege…)
- My fave: Savory Grits with Slow-Cooked Collard Greens: This dish is rather simple to make (though, full disclosure–I might just have that impression since Kent did all the work on this one), but the marriage of the spicy kick of the jalapeño-soaked collards with the creamy cashew-based grits is genius!
Check out the book yourself, and let me know what you think!