“Between Harlem and Heaven presents a captivatingly original cuisine. Afro-Asian-American cooking is packed with unique and delicious layers of flavor. These stories and recipes lay praise to the immense influence the African Diaspora has had on global cuisine.”
“This is more than just a cookbook. Alexander and JJ take us on a culinary journey through space and time that started more than 400 years ago, on the shores of West Africa. Through inspiring recipes that have survived the Middle Passage to seamlessly embrace Asian influences, this book is a testimony to the fact that food transcends borders." Chef Pierre Thiam
In two of the most renowned and historic venues in Harlem, Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson created a unique take on the Afro-Asian-American flavor profile. Their foundation was a collective three decades of traveling the African diaspora, meeting and eating with chefs of color, and researching the wide reach of a truly global cuisine; their inspiration was how African, Asian, and African-American influences criss-crossed cuisines all around the world. They present here for the first time over 100 recipes that go beyond just one place, taking you, as noted by The New Yorker, “somewhere between Harlem and heaven.”
This book branches far beyond "soul food" to explore the melding of Asian, African, and American flavors. The Afro Asian flavor profile is a window into the intersection of the Asian diaspora and the African diaspora. An homage to this cultural culinary path and the grievances and triumphs along the way, Between Harlem and Heaven isn’t fusion, but a glimpse into a cuisine that made its way into the thick of Harlem's cultural renaissance.
JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls bring these flavors and rich cultural history into your home kitchen with recipes for...
- Grilled Watermelon Salad with Lime Mango Dressing and Cornbread Croutons,
- Feijoada with Black Beans and Spicy Lamb Sausage,
- Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Rosemary and Caramelized Shallots,
- Festive punches and flavorful easy sides, sauces, and marinades to incorporate into your everyday cooking life.
Complete with essays on the history of Minton’s Jazz Club, the melting pot that is Harlem, and the Afro-Asian flavor profile by bestselling coauthor Veronica Chambers, who just published the wildly successful Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson, this cookbook brings the rich history of the Harlem food scene back to the home cook.
|Product dimensions:||7.70(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Alexander Smalls is a restaurateur and co-owner of the celebrated Harlem jazz club Minton’s. As the former chef/owner of Café Beulah, Sweet Ophelia's, Shoebox Cafe, and The Cecil, Smalls has received great acclaim in the restaurant sceneincluding cooking at the James Beard House and being named one of Zagat’s 19 NYC Restaurant Power Players. His memoir and cookbook, Grace the Table, features recipes from his upbringing of Southern Revival cuisine. Smalls is also a world-renowned opera singer and the winner of both a Grammy and a Tony Award. He lives in Harlem, New York.
Joseph “JJ” Johnson is a James Beard-nominated chef. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Johnson went on to hone his skills in some of New York’s most esteemed kitchens, including Centro Vinoteca, Jane, Tribeca Grill, The Cecil, and Minton’sand to cook in Ghana at the country’s leading boutique hotel, Villa Monticello. He was named one of Rolling Stone’s ten breakthrough rock star chefs in 2016, one of Zagat’s and Forbes’s 30 Under 30, as well as Chef of the Year by New York African Restaurant Week. He lives in Harlem, New York.
Together, co-owner Alexander Smalls and Executive Chef J.J. Johnson won Esquire’s Best New Restaurant in America for the acclaimed Harlem restaurant The Cecil, which is now part of Minton’s.
Veronica Chambers is the bestselling coauthor of 32 Yolks with Eric Ripert and Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson and the critically acclaimed author of Mama’s Girl and The Meaning of Michelle.
Read an Excerpt
Grilled "Watermelon Garden" Salad with Lime Mango Dressing and Cornbread Croutons
6 to 8 servings
3 pounds seedless watermelon, peel left on, cut into 1-inch-thick slabs olive oil kosher salt
Few things say Harlem in the summertime like fresh watermelon. In 1935, when African-American businessman George Jones opened his classic movie theater, the Harlem, he didn't just serve the usual fare of soft drinks, candy, and popcorn. In between his home (which was next door) and the theater, he opened what he called a "Watermelon Garden" with picnic tables and umbrellas where patrons could gather and socialize before and after the films.
If you've never grilled watermelon in the summertime, then you're in for a treat. Grilling caramelizes the sweetness of the fruit, and the char gives just a hint of smoky flavor. The wood flavor of the grill will come through the watermelon, but it won't be overpowering like the charred tomato or charred vegetables.
Just make sure to slice your watermelon thick enough that it doesn't fall apart while you're turning it on the grill.
Use some stale cornbread from the day before to add texture. It'll be familiar yet wholly different from anything you're used to.
Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. Drizzle the watermelon slices with just enough oil to thinly coat and place them on the hot grill.
Grill each side of the watermelon slices for about 2 minutes, until charred. Transfer to a plate and season with salt.
Remove the rind and dice the grilled watermelon into large cubes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss the pumpkin seeds with the cayenne, sugar, and 2 teaspoons oil and place on a small baking sheet. Roast for 6 to 10 minutes, until golden.
Brush the cornbread cubes with the melted butter and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Put in the oven along with the pumpkin seeds and bake for 10 minutes, turning halfway with a flexible spatula. Remove from the oven when the croutons are toasted and golden.
Toss the watermelon, shiso, dates, and chile in the bowl with the dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the cornbread croutons and toss very gently to combine without breaking the croutons. Spoon the salad onto a large platter and garnish with the pumpkin seeds and cheese.
LIME MANGO DRESSING
The lime in this dressing provides a sharper tang than lemon would.
Makes 1 cup
½ cup coarsely chopped ripe mango
Put all of the ingredients except the oil in a blender. Blend on high. After the ingredients are blended, slowly add the oil and continue to blend until the mixture is thickened and emulsified.
FRESH BAKED CORNBREAD
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan with some of the melted butter.
In a large bowl, beat the remaining melted butter, milk, and egg with a fork or wire whisk until well mixed. In a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, Aleppo pepper, and salt. Stir into the egg mixture and blend until the flour is just moistened (the batter will be lumpy). Gently fold in the cheese and set the batter aside to rest for 5 minutes.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan; use a rubber spatula to scrape batter from the bowl. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Collard Green Salad with Coconut Dressing
4 to 6 servings
3 cups shredded collard greens
Every few months, some food magazine or blog pops up the same tired headline: "Are Collard Greens the New Kale?" No. Collards have worked harder than kale ever will. Collards are out there digging ditches and roofing houses while kale goes to spin class and leaves early for brunch.
Collards are natural antioxidants, rich in vitamins A, C, and K, full of fiber and low in calories. But — and this is a big one — collards have a long history of being a vegetable that people only cook the crap out of. They're braised and simmered within an inch of being edible and, well, that's got to stop.
Our friends always eat this dish and say, "Isn't this a kale salad?" The goal is to serve the greens raw so that we think of them as something healthy and delicious rather than something you combine with bacon fat and cook down.
Collards have a natural bitterness, and the elements of this recipe balance those strong flavors with sweetness and spice: sweetness in the coconut milk, spice in the smoky chipotle.
There's a brightness to the dressing that perfectly balances the bitterness of the collards and will give your guests the benefit of enjoying everything collards have to offer. To me, this dish is simplicity done well.
In a large bowl, toss the greens with the onion and cucumber with just enough dressing to coat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Top the salad with the beans and candied cashews.
Makes about 2 cups
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
Put the cumin seeds in a small dry sauté pan. Toast over medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
Combine the toasted cumin seeds with the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Store in a covered nonreactive container. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Daikon Radish Salad with Crispy Shallots, Walnuts, and Asian Pear Dressing
4 to 8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes
1 pound daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced
I like radishes because they give a mild, peppery heat and they're consistent throughout the year. Daikon radishes are closely identified with Japan, even though they're originally from Southeast Asia, where they continue to find new uses for them. For this dish, getting the crispy shallots just right is the hardest part: You want to let them get golden brown and really, really crispy — so they can stand up to the dressing like a good onion ring can stand up to a dipping sauce. Don't neglect the shallots.
The Asian pear dressing is one of my favorites. The African nectar tea is very fruit forward and herby, a surprising but perfect base for the dressing. And of course, you can whip up a batch of the African nectar tea as a pairing drink for the salad.
In a large bowl, gently toss together the radishes, carrots, arugula, and pomegranate seeds.
Combine 1 cup of the liquid from the poached pears with the vinegar, minced shallot, chile, and mustard in a blender. Blend until smooth. Slowly add the oil, continuing to blend until the dressing is thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Lightly coat the salad with about ¼ cup of the blended dressing and gently toss again.
Cut the poached pears in half lengthwise and place each half flat side down on a cutting board; slice through each pear from the bottom every ¼ inch until about three quarters of the way up, so that the pear is still attached at the very top.
Fan out the sliced pears on serving plates and arrange the dressed salad next to them. Top with the shallots and walnuts.
Makes 1/2 cup
1 cup vegetable oil
In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the oil to 320°F.
Carefully add the shallots and fry until light brown, about 8 minutes. Remove the shallots from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to remove excess oil and cool. Season the shallots with salt as they start to cool.
CHEF JJ'S KITCHEN TIPS
When frying something like the crispy shallots, always make sure to season the item as soon as it comes out of the oil to drain. This ensures that the seasoning will be absorbed properly.
Makes 2 cups
8 ounces walnuts
In a 4-quart pot, cover the walnuts with just enough water to submerge them completely and bring to a boil; boil for 10 minutes.
Drain the walnuts, put them in a bowl, and pat dry with a paper towel. Add the sugar, cayenne, and salt and toss with a large spoon to coat the nuts with the mixture.
Remove the nuts from the spiced sugar and sift off the excess mixture.
Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan and fry the nuts until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the walnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.
Let cool for 20 minutes, then crush the walnuts in a food processor on the pulse setting or with a heavy pan.
Roasted Beet Salad with Apples, Figs, and Citrus Dressing
1 hour 10 minutes
1 hour 30 minutes
2 pounds baby or medium beets
I love beets. Their North African roots appeal to me, of course, but this is a distinctly American dish. I always challenge kids to a taste contest — beets versus Skittles, which ones are sweeter? The answer is beets. We get our beets from Chef's Garden in Ohio (chefsgarden.com — and they'll deliver straight to your house now). They get all these crazy colored beets: candy striped, rainbow, yellow, orange, pink. Many home cooks will be tempted to boil the beets because it's easier, but roasting gives them a deeper flavor. Reminder: Wear gloves and don't do any prep on a porous surface unless you want your kitchen to look like the set of Dexter.
Figs have two peak times of the year-summertime and fall. Sweet and tangy, this salad has everything you love in it.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Trim the beets, leaving 1 inch of the stem, and coat lightly with the oil. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Peel the beets with a small, sharp knife over a piece of parchment paper to prevent staining your cutting board.
While the beets are still warm, cut each one in half and then each half into 4 to 6 wedges and put them in a large mixing bowl. While still warm, toss them with half of the dressing, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasoning.
Add the arugula and the remaining dressing and gently toss to combine. Plate the salad and top with the figs and apples.
Makes 2/3 cup
¼ cup orange juice
Put all the ingredients except the oil in a blender and blend until completely combined. Slowly add the oil, continuing to blend until emulsified.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Delicata Squash Salad with Yuzu Buttermilk Dressing
4 to 6 servings
2 delicata squashes
My grandmother roasted butternut squash whole. She'd do it with the skin on to add texture; otherwise it can be too mushy. She'd chop it up, then top it off with some cane syrup. This was a regular vegetable dish when I was growing up.
Delicata is a small squash that falls somewhere between acorn squash and butternut. It disappeared almost entirely from menus in the 1940s because of growing problems, but it was brought back in the 2000s thanks to researchers at Cornell.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
In a large bowl, gently toss the squash with the oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the squash on a large baking sheet, turning occasionally, until tender and golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Once the squash is cool to the touch, toss together in a large bowl with the sliced bok choy and enough dressing to coat.
Top with the pickled onions and serve.
CHEF JJ'S KITCHEN TIPS
There's no need to peel delicata squash. The pale yellow and green skin gives great contrasting texture to its creamy flesh once cooked.
YUZU BUTTERMILK DRESSING
Makes 2/3 cups
½ cup mayonnaise
Whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, and yuzu in a large bowl until smooth.
Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
"Are Collard Greens the New Kale?" No. Collards have worked harder than kale ever will. Collards are out there digging ditches and roofing houses while kale goes to spin class and leaves early for brunch.
Harlem Market Salad
Spinach and Black Lentil Salad with Shiitake Mushrooms and Citrus Ginger Soy Dressing
4 to 6 servings
¾ cup beluga or French lentils, picked over for stones
This is a great farmers' market salad that you can change up in a dozen different ways. If you're on your way home from work and make a quick stop at a market, you can pick up spinach, red onion, shiitakes, and an orange for under $10. Grab some black lentils from your pantry and less than an hour later, you'll have this filling, elegant meal.
The three key ingredients are a leafy green veg, citrus, and a vegetable that adds that umami flavor. So if you don't like spinach, try chicory. Switch out the shiitake mushrooms for butternut squash. Instead of orange segments, try grapefruit. You really can't get this wrong.
The secret to this salad is the citrus ginger soy dressing. It's our version of that dressing you get at a Japanese restaurant that you want to put on everything.
CHEF JJ'S KITCHEN TIPS
Save the stems removed from the shiitake mushrooms. Freeze them, stored in an airtight freezer bag, and use them in the next vegetable stock you make. They will add a rich and earthy essence to your recipe bases.
In a 4-quart pot, combine the lentils, garlic powder, onion powder, chile, and enough water to cover by 2 inches.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender but firm and still hold their shape, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the lentils, discarding the cooking liquid.
While the lentils are simmering, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Toss the mushrooms in a bowl with the oil and salt and pepper to taste, making sure to coat them evenly.
Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until tender and browned, about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, toss the spinach, warm lentils, and mushrooms gently together with the dressing (enough to coat the salad lightly) until the spinach is just wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the salad on a platter and top with the oranges and shallot. Serve with additional dressing alongside.
Excerpted from "Between Harlem and Heaven"
Copyright © 2017 Oatmeal Juice Inc. and Alexander Smalls.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Welcome to Harlem. You Are Here
Somewhere Between Harlem and Heaven by Alexander Smalls
Cumin, Coriander Seeds and Pink Peppercorns
A Caribbean Childhood by JJ Johnson
Flavors Upon Flavors Upon Flavors
MEAT & POULTRY
Bamboo Inn & Uptown Cocktail Party Recipes
Wok Bar & Bourbon Tea
Where the Africa Diaspora Meets the Silk Road
the Afro-Asian Flavor Profile
RICE & SIDES
SAUCES, DRESSINGS & SPICY SIDES
Yellow Hot Sauce, Red Hot Sauce
Welcome to Harlem: A Jumping, Cultural Conversation Place: Alexander, JJ & Veronica