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Breaking Bread at Harlem's Hautest Table

Breaking Bread at Harlem's Hautest Table

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In true Lunch Belle fashion, I arrived at the restaurant about 15 minutes early and, to my surprise, Red Rooster was not nearly as crowded as I had imagined it would be. Since Rach and I did not have a reservation, there was no need to approach the hostess and inform her of my arrival. Instead, I made a beeline to the spacious bar and ordered a café latte as I waited for my guest.

Just as I began to get comfortable, Rachel arrived. As I paid my bar tab, she approached the hostess stand and inquired about a two-top. Coincidentally, we were seated at a communal table, located just inches from my original bar stool.

"You know," Rachel admitted, as my head was buried deep in Red Rooster's brunch menu, "I've already been here for dinner." I glanced up in shock — as if she'd just announced that she was going to move to Las Vegas to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a showgirl. "What?" I exclaimed. Rachel reassured me that, despite having previously dined here, this did not change the fact that she was eager to sample the 'Rooster's morning offerings. "OK, Rach, but I don't want to hear about your dinner experience until after we're done with brunch. Fair?" She nodded.

Cornbread I've never had cornbread shaped or sliced like pound cake, but this presentation made quite a bit of sense. I cut my portion down the middle and, on each half, spread a thick layer of the accompanying dips — honey butter and tomato jam. The cornbread was very heavy and dense — almost dry. The tomato jam was incredibly fragrant, though not in a positive sense (or shall I say "scents," hahaha) of the word. There were too many combative ingredients and textures. The honey butter, however, was an excellent pairing with the savory bread. Rachel and I butter knife-fought over the last spreadable serving.

African American: Making the Nation’s Table

Dr. Jessica B. Harris, Patron of the Oxford Cultural Collective, is Lead Curator of a major exhibition being staged by the Museum of Food and Drink, at the Africa Center, Harlem, New York City. African/American: Making the Nation’s Table is the first exhibition to celebrate the countless black chefs, farmers, and food and drink producers who have laid the foundation for American food culture —recognition that is long overdue.

The goal of African/American is really two-fold to create a deep appreciation for the profound impact that African Americans have had on American cuisine, and to bring diverse audiences together around a table to celebrate our shared culinary identity,” said Peter J. Kim, former Executive Director of the Museum of Food and Drink.

Harris, widely considered to be the world’s foremost expert on the food of the African Diaspora, commented: “In the 400-plus years since enslaved Africans first arrived on the North American continent, African Americans have been the bedrock of American cuisine. For centuries, we worked the fields, harvested the crops, wrote the recipes, brewed the beer, distilled the whiskey, cooked the food, set the table, served the food, cleared the table, and emptied the chamber-pots. In so doing, we made this nation’s table — and our influence continues today.”

Visitors to African/American first encounter the massive Legacy Quilt, composed of 406 blocks, each one representing one African American culinary innovator. The quilt was hand-stitched by Harlem Needle Arts, a diasporic quilting collective based in Harlem, using historically appropriate fabrics. Visual artist Adrian Franks, a multi-hyphenate creative who has worked with Spike Lee and Michael Jackson, produced the illustrations for the quilt.

While the Legacy Quilt shows the breadth of African American contributions to American food, the exhibition is centred around four particular stories, one for each of the four centuries that have passed since the first arrival of enslaved Africans in North America:

  • Enslaved rice farmers, whose expertise and labour established rice agriculture in the US
  • James Hemings, the enslaved chef of Thomas Jefferson who popularized French food in the United States
  • Nathan Nearest Green, who taught a young Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey and
  • Leah Chase, the queen of Creole cuisine whose restaurant, Dooky Chase, provided the table from which participants in the civil rights movement ate, relaxed, and strategized.

Anchoring African/American is the Ebony Test Kitchen, the psychedelic staple of black home cooking in the mid-20th Century from which Ebony Magazine tested recipes for its iconic ‘Date with a Dish’ column, from oyster gumbo to sweet potato pudding.

Run by the first and only African American food editor at a major magazine, Ebony celebrated and helped popularize African American food as American food. The kitchen was almost destroyed when its space in the Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, was to be turned into housing. MOFAD won a competitive bid for the kitchen, preserving this piece of classic African Americana– and hopes to take it on tour to centres of African American life across the country, from Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to New Orleans and Memphis.

Legendary musician and tastemaker Questlove has curated the music for the kitchen, while videos of Ebony editors talking about the kitchen give visitors a more profound first-person understanding of its cultural importance.

This multi-sensory exhibition also provides visitors with the chance to break bread together. As part of African/American, Chef Carla Hall, chef and television personality, has curated a tasting inspired by the story of the “shoebox lunch”. During the Great Migration, many African American travellers were refused food service in hospitality venues. They would pack shoeboxes with food as the only certain source of sustenance for the trip. MOFAD’s tasting uses the shoebox lunch as a symbol of culture, connection, and the spread of African American culinary identity across the country.

Contributors to the shoebox tasting menus include Chris Scott, instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education Adrienne Cheatham, formerly executive chef at Red Rooster Tanya Holland, owner of Brown Sugar restaurant in San Francisco and Edouardo Jordan of JuneBaby, Seattle, known for his Black Southern dishes and Kwame Onwuachi, until recently executive chef at Kith and Kin in Washington DC.

How Charlotte's Chefs Are Welcoming All to the Table

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Charlotte Community Feast at Camp North End (photo: Keia Mastrianni)

When we say the James Beard Foundation is about good food for good, it&rsquos not limited to sustainable agriculture, the Farm Bill, or reducing food waste. Another important aspect of our mission is highlighting the myriad hands that are helping to shape American cuisine. Below, Keia Mastrianni reports from Charlotte, North Carolina on the city's first Community Feast, where local chefs collaborated on a family-style dinner designed to bridge socioeconomic and geographic divisions through a shared meal.

On a balmy August evening, inside an old Ford Factory in Charlotte, North Carolina where Henry Ford once assembled the Model T for mass production, an assemblage of a different sort coalesced. Nearly 200 people gathered in the industrial space, now repurposed for events, to share a meal prepared by 16 Charlotte chefs. Over a family-style dinner, diners of all ages and income levels were welcomed to the table to share in Charlotte&rsquos first Community Feast.

The event was the culmination of an idea sparked in early June at the James Beard Foundation&rsquos Charlotte chef summit. The cohort of 20 Charlotte chefs, food writers, educators, and agricultural advocates discussed equity and accessibility within the city&rsquos food culture, and what came up over and over again were these words: leadership, equity, community, mentorship, and living wage.

The conversation centered on what chefs can do to improve the conditions of the communities in which they cook. Greg Collier, chef/owner of Uptown Yolk and the forthcoming Leah and Louise, lent his voice: &ldquoAs a black chef, I feel like I need to say, &lsquoWhat community are we talking about?&rsquo&rdquo

In 2014, the Equality of Opportunity report, also known as the Chetty Study, ranked Charlotte last among the 50 largest U.S. cities in upward mobility. Data from Leading On Opportunity, an organization working to create change for Charlotte-Mecklenburg children, youth, and families affected by race and income inequalities, reports that access to economic opportunity in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is far too often aligned with one&rsquos zip code. For all of its exponential growth, the area experiences &ldquoprofound segregation by both race and income&rdquo through discriminatory practices implemented by the state and federal governments reaching back as far as 1910. In Charlotte, opportunity-rich areas skew majority-white, while opportunity-poor neighborhoods skew majority non-white.

Field Pea Salad prepared by Jamie Swofford of the Chef's Farmer (photo: Keia Mastrianni)

Clark Barlowe, chef/owner of Heirloom Restaurant, a fine-dining restaurant situated in a blue-collar, majority-black neighborhood in northwest Charlotte, recognizes the disparity in his dining room. &ldquoCustomers in my restaurant are 75 percent, maybe 80 percent white,&rdquo says Barlowe. So, he asked himself what he could do to better serve the people in his neighborhood. He started by making an active food pantry&mdashselling local produce, proteins, starches, grains, and homemade stocks at cost to his neighbors. In July he added a &ldquopay-what-you-can&rdquo dish to his restaurant menu. Barlowe&rsquos &ldquopay-what-you-can&rdquo efforts became the catalyst for the Community Feast.

Collier, also the co-founder of the Soul Food Sessions collective, a group created to highlight the contributions of African-American food and beverage professionals in the city, spearheaded the Community Feast. The dinner was designed to reduce the disconnect between charity and actual community work.

The chef-organizers decided to invite community members from all neighborhoods and income levels to the table. Tickets were offered on a sliding scale from $20-$120, and 80 tickets were distributed at no cost via partnerships with individuals who work within specific neighborhoods. Hector Gonzalez, head chef at Project 658, an organization that works intimately with the at-risk families in international and refugee communities on Charlotte&rsquos east side, brought 15 guests.

To further give back, Collier chose to donate the proceeds of the dinner to Heal Charlotte, a nonprofit founded by activist and former chef Greg Jackson that works closely with youth in his neighborhood in northeast Charlotte. After the 2016 shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Jackson channeled the energy he used to protest police violence into something more. Heal Charlotte offers rental assistance, after-school programs, and serves as a liaison between the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Jackson&rsquos community.

The night of the feast, folks from the east and west sides of Charlotte joined those from more affluent parts of town. Jackson brought his boys from the after-school program, along with their mothers who got to taste foods made by Charlotte&rsquos best chefs&mdashaccess that had previously been out of reach for most of them. Volunteers and executives from local and national community organizations served 16 family-style courses, and overflowing plates passed over black, brown, and white hands.

Volunteer Andrew Ayers serves street corn to Community Feast guests (photo: Brian Twitty)

&ldquoMy kids got to meet people that have invested in them, and that goes a long way,&ldquo says Jackson. &ldquoWe don&rsquot think there are people outside of our community that actually care about what&rsquos happening inside, so to have all those people that don&rsquot walk like, talk like, or look like people from my neighborhood meant a lot.&rdquo

The Community Feast raised over $2,000 for Heal Charlotte, money that will go back to the after-school programs and educational field trips centered on food experiences. Beyond the meal, six chefs including Greg Collier, Chris Coleman (The Goodyear House), Michael Bowling (Hot Box Next Level Kitchen), Joe Kindred (Kindred Restaurant), Kyle McKnight (Barrister&rsquos), and Justin Burke-Samson (Bonjour Y&rsquoall Bakery) have committed to adding a pay-what-you-can dish to their dinner menus, following Clark Barlowe&rsquos lead.

Over the phone, you can hear Jackson still beaming. &ldquoThis opened up a lot of people&rsquos eyes about what chefs can do, what the restaurant industry can do on a philanthropic level. Opportunities that start with food can transcend to other things in life.&rdquo’s Bread in a Bag

Preheat oven to 375º and spray mini loaf pans with cooking spray.

In a resealable plastic bag, place 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and one ¼-ounce package of yeast. Add 1 cup warm water.

Seal bag and squish together with your hands to mix. Let rest 10 minutes at room temperature. (Yeast should activate.) Add 1 cup flour, 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons kosher salt to the bag, then seal and squish together.

Add 1 cup of flour and mix until combined. Remove from bag and knead 5 minutes until smooth. Halve dough and place in two loaf pans. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Brush top of bread with olive oil or melted butter and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

Sanders breaks bread with Sharpton in Harlem

Bernie Sanders joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem on Wednesday for coffee and tea, respectively, the morning after the Vermont senator trounced Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, and just a couple weeks before he faces a largely black Democratic primary electorate in South Carolina.

It was about 9:50 a.m. when Sanders climbed out of a silver Chevy Suburban and waved to a crowd of a few dozen reporters and onlookers on his way into Sylvia’s Restaurant, a Harlem institution that Sharpton has called a symbol of “Black America.”

He and the reverend sat at a glass-topped table in a corner by a window decorated with holly stickers and guarded by two Secret Service officers. They spent about 20 minutes whispering to each other.

Then they walked out, with Sanders’ hand on Sharpton’s back.

According to Sharpton, who spoke to reporters after Sanders left, they talked about the tainted-water crisis in the largely black city of Flint, Michigan, affirmative action, police brutality and police misconduct.

Sanders also agreed to meet with the heads of national civil rights organizations — like Hillary Clinton will next week, according to Sharpton.

“I have not made an endorsement and will not until after that meeting. Probably after that meeting, I will,” he said, as snow began to flurry.

The meeting with Sharpton comes as Sanders tries to cut into Clinton's sizable lead among black voters, which the Clinton camp hopes will serve as a firewall against Sanders' surge.

Most of New York's black leaders have already backed Clinton, including the dean of the state's congressional delegation, Rep. Charlie Rangel, who told a reporter last week, "I don’t know any black person who knows Bernie Sanders."

But a diverse crowd turned out to greet Sanders in Harlem on Wednesday.

Annette Alvarez, a 57-year-old, self-described political junkie who works as a talent manager for ethnic actors, said she is inclined to support Sanders because, “It’s about time that someone talks the talk of what we all need to hear, which is this country is out of control.”

A class of fourth-graders from the Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem stood nearby.

Among them was nine-year-old Milana Paulino, who prefers Sanders, "because he wants free health care,” but also likes Clinton, “because she’s a girl.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand is, "like, kind of racist,” according to her classmate, Hawa Diakite.

“I see you. You’re still here”

I adore my neighborhood. The Fillmore is a part of the Western Addition district, one of the last slices of black life in San Francisco. This community values neighborly chats and sidewalk smiles. Breaking news is shared in a salon chair over a shampoo and twist-out or over a $1 cup of hella Robusta coffee and an actual newspaper. Elders will ask you to help carry their groceries from the Safeway (really, a test of your home training because you will carry those bags). A friendly “Good morning, queen” or “I like your hair!” seems to break through humanity hardened by city life, to say affirmatively: I see you. You’re still here.

Being an African-American living in San Francisco is a precarious condition. Living in the Fillmore district is particularly so. In the spring of 1963, James Baldwin, chronicled in the fiery documentary Take This Hammer, surmised on the lives of black residents in a city known for its progressive values. “There is no moral distance. between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.”

This is what it was, and in many ways, still is.

In its heyday, the Fillmore was the black cultural zeitgeist of California, christened by the diaspora as the “Harlem of the West.” African-Americans, seeking shipyard jobs on the SF shoreline and bound geographically by racial covenants that limited housing and business opportunities, gave life to the Fillmore’s thriving jazz, arts, and literary scene. This is where, according to Elizabeth Pepin and Lewis Watts in their photo history project Harlem of the West, luminaries such as Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane frequented renowned nightclubs like Elsie’s Breakfast Club and the Booker T. Washington Hotel Lounge. Fillmore was where Maya Angelou worked as a streetcar conductor and received inspiration for the seminal I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was also the place where the self-determination of community allowed black folks to open their own butcher shops sling stiff cocktails that fueled jam sessions till the wee hours run counter spots that served fried fish sandwiches and operate grocery stores that sold ingredients like grits, yams, and mustard greens for a taste of home down South.

Eventually, these vital black-owned restaurants and bars would go up against a more insidious last call: postwar urban renewal projects that targeted low-income, nonwhite neighborhoods and spanned nearly 50 years in the Western Addition. In 1947, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) gobbled up hundreds of city blocks and homes and displaced thousands of mostly black residents. From 1953 to 1970, during the height of redevelopment, black businesses including diners, cafeterias, bakeries, bars, hotels, and music venues were either evicted or demolished. The purpose? To redevelop depressed areas and bring “the beauty and restfulness of the suburbs, combined with all of the advantages of the City.” The aura of the white picket fence defined the San Francisco of “tomorrow,” and black meant blight.

Neighborhood activists rose up in the face of disruption. In the spring of 1969, the Black Panther Party established its Free Breakfast Program for local youth at Sacred Heart parish church at the corner of Fell and Fillmore. Over hot plates of grits, eggs, bread, and bacon, the members not only delivered their radical anti-hunger politik but also inspired community members, young and old, to mobilize. Homegrown groups such as the Western Addition Community Organization successfully fought the city agency in 1975 to stymie the demolition and provide support for the displaced renters. However, acres of vacant land languished for years. Rebuilding occurred at a painful pace, with former residents unable to afford new homes, rampant redlining by banks, and businesses left incapable of bouncing back. Market-rate towers and townhomes replaced Victorians and affordable housing.

When the redevelopment agency finally closed up shop in 2008, the damage amounted to 4,729 households displaced, 2,500 Victorian homes destroyed, and 883 businesses shut down. The legacy of this upheaval has had devastating impacts. Fred Blackwell, then executive director of the SFRA, said, “The agency’s time here has not been a happy story. There is no way to make up for clearing large swaths of land and displacing thousands of people.”

The cultural loss is incalculable and deeply felt by my neighbors. Local club owner Agonafer Shiferaw penned a heartfelt letter to former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, in response to the city’s ill-fated attempt at a Fillmore Jazz Preservation District and the closure of his popular Rasselas Jazz Club at 1534 Fillmore after 28 years in business: “I am nonetheless saddened that the visionary promise of a revitalized, thriving, African American commercial presence along Fillmore Street with a jazz ambience is fading, and fading fast. At present, there are just a few African American enterprises along Fillmore Street. I urge you, Mr. Mayor, to. initiate a re-visit of the originating ideas that launched the Jazz Preservation District concept to determine what can be done to salvage this noble endeavor.”

#TeamBeautiful Throws Intimate Launch Party For ‘The Kitchen Table’

To celebrate the launch of HelloBeautiful’s newest web series, The Kitchen Table, hosted by Chef Huda, we threw a fabulous dinner party Tuesday in New York City. The evening was full of amazing moments and #TeamBeautiful got the chance to break bread with industry influencers, celebrities and our friends at Coca-Cola.

The event, which took place at the world-famous Red Rooster in Harlem, NY, was hosted by Bevy Smith, host of the former show Fashion Queens, who kept the crowd inspired and motivated to live their best lives all night.

Source: Rashid Mausi / Interactive One

Source: Rashid Mausi / Interactive One

While attendees dined on delicious shrimp and grits, macaroni and cheese, fried yard bird and ice cold Coca-Colas, Leigh Davenport, Vice President of Programming at Interactive One, told the crowd all about The Kitchen Table, and the show’s special guests, actresses Holly Robinson Peete and Tisha Campbell Martin.

Artist Sylvia Maier, who created an original piece of art depicting our series, was on hand at the event as well. Her painting of the Huda, Holly and Tisha truly evokes the spirit of the conversations that bind us all to our kitchen tables.

Open-Faced Crab Sandwich with Pickled Tomatoes

Recipe adapted from Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster, NYC

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes, plus 3 hours chilling

Cook Time: 5 minutes, plus 3 hours chilling

Total Time: 30 minutes, plus 3 hours chilling


For the Pickled Grape Tomatoes:

1 teaspoon pickling spice 

1 cup grape tomatoes, blanched in boiling water and skinned 

For the Crab Sandwich:

14 ounces lump crab meat, picked and cleaned 

4 slices of white bread, toasted 

6 crisp slices bacon, roughly chopped 

1 avocado, pitted and sliced 

Micro herbs (such as basil, cilantro and chives), for garnish 


1. Make the pickled grape tomatoes: Combine all ingredients except for the tomatoes in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 5 minutes. Transfer the vinegar mixture and tomatoes to a mason jar and allow them to pickle in the refrigerator until well chilled, at least 3 hours but preferably overnight. 

2. Make the crab sandwich: In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon zest and togarashi. Gently fold in the crab meat with a rubber spatula, making sure everthing is evenly coated. 

3. Divide the crabmeat mixture between four toasts and top with the pickled tomatoes, bacon, avocado and micro herbs. 

'Rao's: Recipes from the Neighborhood'

Check out his recipes for Frankie's Meatballs, Potatoes and Eggs and Spinach Pie and more. If you want to print these recipes, simply scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on the "print this article" option. Then send the newly formatted page to your printer.

Frankie's Meatballs

Makes 14 to 18 (2 1/2 to 3-inch) meatballs.

This recipe is the same one my aunt Anna would use for the restaurant. She inherited the recipe from her mother, my grandmother Paolina. Everyone in my family makes the meatballs the same way. Instead of buying separate ground beef, veal, and pork, try using 2 pounds of meat loaf mix from the supermarket.

• 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

• 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

• 1/2 to 1 small garlic clove, minced

• 2 cups plain bread crumbs

• 1 clove garlic, lightly smashed

With your hands, combine the beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and blend the ingredients together. Add the bread crumbs and blend into the meat mixture. Slowly add the water, 1 cup at a time, until the mixture is moist. Shape the meat mixture into 2 1/2 to 3-inch balls.Heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute the whole garlic until lightly brown to flavor the oil, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the meatballs and fry in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. When the bottom half of the meatball is well browned and slightly crisp, about 5 to 6 minutes, turn it and cook the other side for 5 minutes more. Remove the meatballs from the heat and drain them on paper towels.

Potatoes and Eggs

When I was a little boy growing up in East Harlem, both my parents had to work, so I was often left in the care of my grandmothers. Once I was down in the street, they could never get me to go back upstairs to have lunch. However, grandmothers are never happy unless you eat. My grandmother Antoinette, a genius in her own right, would make me a potato and egg hero, a flask of caffe latte, sometimes with a touch of anisette, put it in a brown paper bag, tie the bag with a rope, and send it out the window, going down three stories. I would untie the bag and eat my lunch in the empty lot next to our building or on the front stoop. My grandmother was happy, and so was I. God bless you, Grandma.

• 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced

• 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat the oil in large nonstick ovenproof or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Fry the potatoes until tender and golden brown. Add the onion and salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture to the potatoes and onions. Cook, shaking the pan and gently moving the mixture from side to side with a rubber spatula as some of the liquid from the top reaches the bottom of the pan. Cook until the bottom is set and beginning to brown and the top is still loose, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the eggs by sliding them onto a plate. Then invert and slide the eggs back into the pan, cooked side up. Cook until the eggs are set, 2 to 3 minutes more, shaking the pan often to prevent sticking. If you prefer, rather than inverting the eggs, you can place the skillet under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until the top is set and lightly browned. Unmold onto a plate, cut into wedges, and serve.

Spinach Pie

Makes 2 large pies or 8 small pies

Every Friday night my father would eat at my grandmother's house with his brothers. Sometimes my grandmother would make a spinach or pizza pie for him to take home to us. There were times my mother and I never got any because my father ate the whole thing while driving.

• 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for the dough

• 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

• 6 bunches spinach, steamed, or 3 boxes frozen whole leaf spinach, defrosted, squeezed of any excess water

• 2 tablespoon golden raisins, soaked in water to cover (optional)

• 2 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)

• 1 recipe Pizza Dough (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach, salt and pepper to taste, raisins and pine nuts, if desired, and toss until the spinach is thoroughly coated and flavorful. Transfer the spinach mixture to a colander and let drain.

To make 2 large pies, divide the pizza dough into two equal rounds. Roll out one round into a 14-inch circle. Spread 1 tablespoon of the oil over the dough and place half the spinach mixture onto half of the rolled out dough. Fold the dough over the mixture to form a half moon, and seal the edges with the tines of a fork. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough. To make 8 small pies, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, rolling them each into a 4- to 5-inch circle and dividing the spinach mixture equally among them. Fold and seal as directed above.

Transfer the pies to an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from the oven, cut into slices, and serve.

Pizza Dough

Makes enough dough for two 16-inch pies, or one 12 x 18 inch Sicilian pie

In addition to pizzas, you can use this dough to make Calzone (page 48) and Spinach Pie (page 47).

• 4 cups all purpose unbleached flour, plus additional flour for kneading

• 1 package rapid rise yeast

Oil the inside of a large bowl and set aside. Combine the flour and salt in another large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the warm water, the yeast, and the sugar and let the mixture stand for 5 to 10 minutes until the yeast blooms and bubbles appear. Gradually add the yeast mixture to the flour, mixing with your hands to combine. Gradually add the remaining water and finally the oil, mixing until the dough is soft and sticky. You may need a little more water to make the dough soft and elastic.Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Or use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Turn it to coat with the oil, cover it with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour, until it is one and a half times its original size. Punch down the dough and let it rest for about 1 hour. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin to the size and shape to fill your pizza pan. Let it rise in the pan approximately 20 minutes before adding toppings and cooking.

Ida's Baked Macaroni and Cheese

My mother, Ida, used to make her baked macaroni and cheese once a month. My brother and I would count down the days in anticipation. The two of us could eat the whole dish ourselves. This may not be strictly Italian cooking, but it's too good not to include.

• 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 pound American cheese or Cheddar cheese, shredded

• 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked until just al dente, drained

• 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk and cook until heated through. Add the cheese gradually, stirring constantly, until it is melted and the sauce is smooth. Place the macaroni in the prepared baking dish. Pour the cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to coat the macaroni evenly.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and saute until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the mixture is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Let the macaroni sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Josephine's Tuna Pasta Salad

Josephine is my wife. We were both born and raised in East Harlem and we both went to grade school at Our Lady Queen of Angels on 113th Street. It is also the church where we were married. Josephine is a stickler for fresh ingredients and shops every day for what she's going to cook that night. I might also add that when she is not cooking, she is cleaning. I have the cleanest house in America.

• 1 pound rotelle or elbow pasta, cooked and cooled

• 3 cans tuna fish, packed in olive oil, undrained

• 1 1/2 cups pitted and chopped black olives• 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add the tuna with its oil, the onion, capers, olives, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon Juice, and salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve.

Sausage and Peppers In the Oven

This is a fast and easy way to serve sausage and peppers when you're having a crowd over for dinner or a party. Leftovers make great sandwiches with crusty Home Baked Italian Bread (page 54).

• 10 Italian frying peppers, cored, seeded, and halved

• 2 large onions, thinly sliced

• 6 garlic cloves, lightly smashed

Place sausages in a roasting pan. Add the peppers, onions, garlic, and salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.

Roast the sausages for approximately I hour, turning occasionally, until they are nicely browned. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Eggplant Parmigiano

• 2 eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick

• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus additional for layering

• 1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley

• Seasoned flour for dredging (page xxiv)

• 2 cups plain bread crumbs

• 2 cups Marinara Sauce (page 82)

• 1/2 to 1 pound mozzarella, diced

Spread the eggplant in 1 layer on paper towels. Sprinkle generously with salt. Place the eggplant in a colander and cover with a plate. Place a weight on the plate to weigh down the eggplant. Let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the weights and shake off any excess salt.

Combine the eggs, grated cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set out a plate of flour and a plate of bread crumbs.

Lightly flour the eggplant, shaking off any excess. Dip the slices in the egg mixture, then the bread crumbs. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Fry the eggplant in batches, turning them when the edges are browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Place the fried eggplant on a folded brown paper bag or on paper towels to drain.

Layer the ingredients in a 9 x 15 x 2 inch pan. Begin by spreading approximately 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Add an overlapping layer of eggplant, then more sauce, followed by I teaspoon of grated cheese, Then sprinkle with a handful or two of mozzarella. Add another layer of eggplant and continue layering, ending with a layer of sauce and a handful of mozzarella.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15 to 30 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown and the sauce is bubbling. Serve.

For more information on Rao's, go to

Recipes excerpted from "Rao's: Recipes From The Neighborhood," by Frank Pellegrino, St. Martin's Press, copyright 2004.

The best gut-busting dishes to try at Harlem’s new food fest

The Harlem Renaissance revolutionized jazz and nurtured countless artists and writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes.

But its vibrant dining scene hasn’t traditionally been treated with the same reverence.

Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson hopes to change that on Thursday, when the first Harlem EatUp! festival kicks off with two sold-out opening-night events, and dozens more to follow through Sunday with tickets still available. (For details, go to

Chef Marcus Samuelsson is the founder of the Harlem EatUp! festival. Brian Zak

“This is a magical place,” says Samuelsson, who helped usher in a neighborhood restaurant boom when he opened Red Rooster on Lenox Avenue in 2010 and Streetbird Rotisserie on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in April. “We wanted to give [New Yorkers] a reason to rediscover [Harlem].”

Alongside luminaries such as former President Bill Clinton, who serves as honorary chairman of Harlem EatUp!, Samuelsson has worked to create an event that’s as much about the neighborhood as it is about the plate.

“I wanted to marry the best chefs in the country with the best talent in Harlem,” says Samuelsson.

On Friday, local restaurants will host top toques from throughout the country for a series of multicourse meals around the neighborhood. Four-star Italian-cuisine maestro Michael White will join Tren’ness Woods-Black and Carlos Brown in the kitchen of Harlem soul-food stalwart Sylvia’s. Samuelsson, meanwhile, will team up with Southern chef Sean Brock, a James Beard Award winner from Charleston and Nashville’s Husk restaurant.

Marcus Samuelsson (front row, blue cap), and Citi, a founding partner, arranged for this photo of more than 60 stellar chefs participating in the festival. Nick Ruechel

There will also be various panel discussions with culinary luminaries, such as Daniel Boulud on Saturday afternoon at the Studio Museum.

But the heart of the festival will take place Saturday and Sunday in Morningside Park with two general-admission tasting events where families can graze on dishes from 11 different local restaurants — from neighborhood veterans including Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que to exciting newcomers such as LoLo’s Seafood Shack.

“Going to the park, tasting some great local food — what can be better than that?” enthuses Samuelsson.

Here, some of the most scrumptious reasons to head uptown this weekend for the festival’s big tasting events.

Bier International

Harlem’s first biergarten, Bier International, will give you a taste of Germany at Sunday’s event with their baked Bavarian pretzels and bratwurst. Beer, wine and spirits will be available on Saturday and Sunday.

Streetbird Rotisserie

Marcus Samuelsson’s new restaurant, Streetbird Rotisserie, will be serving up a chicken-tacolike dish called the C. Chavez and the Sweet Dog dessert on Sunday. Inspired by semla, a pastry from Sweden, where Samuelsson grew up, it features brioche buns filled with spiced almond paste and topped with whipped cream, red-velvet sauce and shaved chocolate. “People love it,” says Streetbird chef Adrienne Cheatham.

Seasoned Vegan

Seasoned Vegan chef Brenda Beener will showcase her “crawfish” po’boy on both Saturday and Sunday — the crawfish is in quotes because it’s actually fried burdock root, fresh greens and rémoulade sauce on a flour tortilla. Beener says it’s “the most talked about” of her dishes.

Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken

For more than two decades, Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken has been serving some of the city’s best birds. See what all the fuss is about and get a taste of the secret seasonings in his fried chicken, collard greens and mac ’n’ cheese on Saturday and Sunday.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

John Stage’s Harlem outpost of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que will showcase its award-winning food on two separate occasions. Expect some lipsmacking barbecue at his Friday night dinner with guest chef Ludo Lefebvre, from burning-hot Los Angeles restaurant Trois Mec, and sample some sides, including porky barbecue beans, at Morningside Park on Saturday.

LoLo’s Seafood Shack

Neighborhood newcomer LoLo’s Seafood Shack will be dishing up conch fritters with bacalao dip and shark sandwiches on the fried Caribbean bread known as bake on Sunday.


Popular Caribbean soul-food fusion restaurant Melba’s will offer country-fried catfish on Saturday. “This is a great opportunity to show the world Harlem’s rich culinary landscape,” says the restaurant’s owner, Melba Wilson, of the festival.


On Saturday, cool off with some gazpacho (pictured, with a server) from lively Barawine.“It’s quick. It’s fresh,” says Barawine chef Carlos Jimenez. “You can really taste the sherry vinegar.”

BLVD Bistro

BLVD Bistro’s shrimp and grits, which will be served at both Saturday and Sunday’s events, gets an extra kick from some jalapeño peppers. The dish “represents a Southern, low-country influence, which comes from Georgia and South Carolina, with the newness of Harlem,” says chef and owner Carlos Swepson.

Lady Lexis Sweets

Chefs Lexis Dilligard and Sharon Gonzalez from Lady Lexis Sweets will be satisfying sweet tooths on Saturday with their bread pudding and oatmeal creme pies. “The bread pudding has been something that we’ve eaten since we were both children,” says Dilligard.

Watch the video: Breaking Bread: Harlem, New York