There’s no healthier—or more colorful—way to head into the holidays than with this seasonal salad from California Soul by chef Tanya Holland. The book highlights African American cuisine in the Golden State—in this case bitter salad greens, sweet oranges, pomegranates and almonds showcase the bright abundance of California, while spicy Creole mustard lends a touch of New Orleans’ flavor to the dressing. (If you can’t find blood oranges, try another variety, such as Cara Cara or regular navel oranges.)
California Soul is Bay Area-based chef Tanya Holland’s third cookbook and shares the food and stories of African Americans in the state from the 1850s through the Great Migration to the present. TV viewers also know Holland from season 15 of Bravo’s Top Chef and coaching Selena Gomez on how to make fried chicken and biscuits on HBO Max’ show Selena + Chef.
Born and raised in Connecticut, Holland spent a lot of time in Virginia and Louisiana, where her parents were from. But it was her family’s trips to visit relatives in California that left a lasting impression. “I wanted to come live here a few times when I was younger,” says Holland, who finally made the move from New York City to Oakland the week after 9/11. “It just seemed like all things were possible here. California is very innovative and progressive.”
“I had lots of influences,” said Holland. “I’ve always had an open palate and curiosity about where things come from.” When she was a child, her parents started The Gourmet Club with six couples from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds to explore all kinds of cuisines and cultures.
From 2008 until 2020, Holland was the owner and executive chef of the modern soul food restaurant Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, Calif., which is home to one of the state’s most vibrant African American communities. Ericka Huggins, a founding member of the Black Panther Party, and Paul Coates, a former Black Panther and father of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, were among the award-winning restaurant’s patrons.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker (The Color Purple) was another regular at Brown Sugar Kitchen and penned the foreword to California Soul. So was novelist Michael Chabon, who wrote the foreword to her previous cookbook Brown Sugar Kitchen.
Holland favors local produce, dairy, eggs and other ingredients as much as possible. And that includes first-rate olive oil. Her pick: Seka Hills Extra Virgin California Olive Oil (from $13, shop.sekahills.com), which is produced by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation tribe in Northern California.
A meal cooked by someone else. “I like anyone cooking for me,” says Holland. “I’m not that picky when other people are cooking. As long as it’s made with love, I appreciate any and all effort.”
[Adapted with permission from Tanya Holland’s California Soul: Recipes from a Culinary Journey West by Tanya Holland, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Text copyright © 2022 by Tanya Holland. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Aubrie Pick.]
Winter Chicory Salad With Blood Oranges, Pomegranates and Creole Mustard Vinaigrette
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