This time, we are riffing on recipes from Freda DeKnight’s 1973 cookbook: Date With a Dish. Freda was the first food editor at Ebony magazine. At the time, Ebony Magazine was one of the premiere tastemaking publications for black folk. And the version I have of her book was actually marketed as the Ebony Cookbook.
Although DeKnight was a great cook, she is better known for the culinary research she did while collecting recipes from across America and beyond. Her cookbook reflects the breadth of black cooking in America. It also shows how black people made French, Spanish, West Indian, Chinese, African, Dutch, and German dishes their own.
Any time you eat an Italian dish with tomato, that’s Italian people making an American food their own. Any time you eat noodles at a Japanese restaurant that’s Japanese people making a Chinese food their own.
If something is yummy, people will integrate it into their own cuisines. The recipes in this cookbook are doing the same thing.
Coming up with new dishes to cook is the hard part. A blank page is a very hard place to start from. It’s hard to come up with new dishes unless you have some good dishes to start with. That’s what Freda is offering us, some great starting points.
I revised this menu perhaps 5 times before I settled on the dishes you saw. But it was more like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle rather than making a puzzle. A much more fun task and one I can be successful at, and you too.
DeKnight was a culinary pioneer who can teach us so much about pulling together tasty dishes by integrating food traditions from across the country and the world. It’s not fancy. It’s approachable, yet innovative. The kinds of recipes I can really sink my teeth into.
I don’t know about you, but I take advantage of every opportunity I get to create something I’ve never eaten before. I find it inspiring to create new dishes by building on things I’ve cooked in the past and from food other people have cooked for me. That’s what got me excited about using these recipes for this virtual wine tasting party. I used these recipes as a launching point to create dishes that were new to me, at least. In the same way Freda was encouraging home cooks to try new food ideas, I took her idea one step further and incorporated ideas I’ve picked up along the way.
One person said the peanut soup in this mene was the best soup they’ve eaten in their life! It doesn’t get any better than that. And paired with fruity and floral Torrontes, the soup course was beyond delicious. But, the grilled fish with Cannonau was also a stand out. There’s a reason why this is a classic pairing. You should definitely try it. Yes, fish and red wine can go together.
NV Borrasca Brut Cava (SP)
2017 Crios De Susana Balbo Torrontes (AR)
2018 Maipe Torrontes (AR)
2017 Argiolas Costera Cannonau (IT)
2019 Bevan Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Stone’s Original Ginger (UK)
Osborne Amontillado Sherry (SP)