Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: America I AM Pass It Down Cookbook: Over 130 Soul-Filled Recipes by Jeff Henderson and Ramin Ganeshram

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Smiley Books (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401931359
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401931353

Product Description


The smells in the kitchen, the unforgettable flavors—these powerful memories of food, family, and tradition are intertwined and have traveled down from generations past to help make us the people we are today. Now, Tavis Smiley’s America I AM exhibit has joined forces with Chef Jeff Henderson and Ramin Ganeshram to create the America I AM Pass It Down Cookbook.  

This special keepsake preserves African Americans’ collective food history through touching essays, celebratory menus, and over 130 soul-filled and soul-inspired recipes. There’s something for everyone—from traditional southern cooking like Apryle’s Seafood Gumbo, Craig Robinson’s Mom’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and Russel Honoré’s Barbecued Boston Pork Butt, to healthy new millennium twists, including the Duo Dishes’ Honey Dijon Spiced Pecan Coleslaw, Ron Johnson’s Crunchy Collards, and Scott Alves Barton’s Fragrant Jerk Chicken. Irresistible desserts like Mama Mabel’s Apple Dumplings and Saporous Strawberry Cheesecake, and beverages like Very Exciting Fruit Punch and Tom Bullock’s classic Lemonade Apollinaris are sure to delight. 

As you read this book, you’ll discover the voices of real cooks and their triumphs in the kitchen, and the ways in which African Americans have impacted the way the whole nation eats.  You’ll learn healthy cooking variations filled with heart and soul, and how to make cooking with kids fun. There’s even a section for you to add your own family recipes and “pass it down” to the next generation.

It’s time to turn the pages and join us at the table. After all, our shared experience is the greatest feast of all.

About the Author


Jeff Henderson was the first African American to be named Chef de Cuisine at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and executive chef at Café Bellagio. He hosted the The Chef Jeff Project, a docu-reality TV series; and is the author of the New York Times bestseller Cooked and Chef Jeff Cooks.

Ramin Ganeshram is a chef and award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Saveur, O, National Geographic Traveler, and more. She is the author of Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago, and Stir It Up!, a culinary novel for middle-grade readers.

My Review

There is a great introduction about the history of African American cooking  in the United States.  The cookbook is divided into twelve chapters including baked goods, desserts, seafood, poultry and meats, vegetables, pastas, grains and beans and beverages.  There is a chapter for extras such as sauces and pickles.  And one chapter is devoted to Pass It Down menus. There is a section at the end, Chapter 12, for writing down your own home recipes.

Stories and photos illustrate this unique cookbook.  I found some great recipes included:  Momma's Sweet Potato Pie, Buttermilk Fried Chicken,Spoon Bread, Seafood Gumbo and Peach Cobbler.  There is a great mix of recipes in this book!

All in all, a wonderful collection of African American history and stories, photographs and delicious recipes!

Recipe From The Cookbook

Originally posted at:

  Imani Wilson's brown stew chicken

When Imani Wilson was four years old, her parents, grandmothers, and aunts started a cookbook for her that she has expanded and added to through her years growing up in Queens, New York, and then as a world-traveling journalist. A writer and ethnomusicologist of Barbadian and Jamaican descent, Ms. Wilson says what she enjoys most about cooking is perfecting the art of combining flavors and textures. Her traditional Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken begins with a caramelized sugar base, believed to be a West African cooking style brought to the Caribbean. Together with the browning, as the caramel foundation is called, allspice, fresh ginger, and Scotch bonnet peppers create an extraordinary depth of flavor to the dish.
  • 1 3-pound chicken cut into eighths plus four additional chicken thighs
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 1/4 cups green seasoning
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 10-15 shallots chopped, to yield 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/2 cup ginger, cut into batons
  • 5 tablespoons Demerara or turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground or 1 tablespoon whole Jamaican allspice
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion for garnish
Wash the chicken in cold water, then place them in a large, deep bowl or pot and add the lime juice, salt, and three cups of water. Stir the mixture until the salt is dissolved. Set aside, refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Remove all the skin and fat and set aside.

Add 1 cup of the green seasoning to the chicken and mix to coat. Mix reserved skin with 1/4 cup of green seasoning and mix to coat. Allow both mixtures to marinate for an hour.

Place the chicken skin in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the fat has been rendered and the skin has fried crisp, remove the skin cracklings with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Pour the rendered fat and peanut oil into a large enamel or cast iron Dutch oven and add the chicken. Brown the chicken in a single layer, about 7-8 minutes per side, cooking in batches. Once the chicken pieces have been browned on both sides, remove chicken from pot and set aside on a wire rack set over a sheet tray or a paper towel-lined tray.
Add the mashed garlic, shallots, and ginger to the pan. Fry until the shallots begin to soften, then remove shallot mixture from pan. Sprinkle sugar over bottom of pot and allow to melt. When sugar begins foaming, about 1 minute, add soy sauce, Scotch bonnet, and allspice. Return the shallot mixture to the pot, stirring well to mix.

Return the chicken and any juices to the pot and lower heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After 45 minutes, remove the Scotch bonnet pepper. Add 1 cup of water and continue cooking for 20 minutes.

Add the sliced garlic to the pot. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as needed. Stir to mix and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the crispy skin and chopped scallions over the stew to serve. Serve with plain rice.
Serving Size
Serves 4-6

     Green seasoning

Green seasoning is a common spice paste in the Caribbean, where it's used primarily for meat and fish. The exact mixture and quantity of spices varies island to island and also according to the cook's taste. Experiment with your own measurements to find what you really like. This is Imani Wilson's family recipe.
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch cutting celery
  • 1 bunch shado beni or culantro
  • 5 shallots, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
Wash all herbs and dry them in a salad spinner. If thyme stems are woody, remove leaves and discard stems.
Chop parsley, chives, scallions, cilantro, celery, and shado beni coarsely. Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor with 1/2 cup water and process to a rough paste. Herbs should not become liquefied.
If necessary, continue to add up to 1/2 cup of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to facilitate processing. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

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