Although he lives in Oakland these days, Bryant hails from Memphis. And he grew up on that good Southern soul food. His cookbooks — Grub, Vegan Soul Kitchen, and now Afro-Vegan —are filled with dishes that taste like home to me. His latest book, Afro-Vegan, came out in April, and it may be his best work yet. The book is dedicated to farm-fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern flavors.
The book isn't organized in the typical chapters of appetizers, breakfast, soups, entrees, and desserts. Instead Bryant separates the chapters by ingredients and flavor profiles and course. For example, there's a chapter on "Spices, Sauces, Heat" and one on "Okra, Black-Eyed Peas, Watermelon" and another on "Street Food, Snacks, Small Bites."
It's a full-color book, and there are gorgeous photos alongside many of the recipes. Plus, the book is peppered with photos of his adorable family. As is Bryant's tradition, a soundtrack is included with each recipe. Most are obscure tracks that only diehard music fans would recognize, but thanks to google, it's easy to look any of them up and listen along as you cook.
It was hard to narrow down which recipes to try first, but I finally settled on a couple that seemed to go together. I made the Slow-Braised Mustard Greens.
These are slow-simmered like granny would do (and damn are they good when cooked down for 45 minutes or so!), and then they're topped with caramelized onions that have been cooked down with tomato paste. The tomato sauce mixes in with the pot likker and makes a broth worthy of any soup.
And you can't sop up pot likker without cornbread! So I made Bryant's Skillet Cornbread with Pecan Dukkah.
Anyway, there are so many more recipes I want to try from Afro-Vegan — Smashed Potatoes with Peas, Corn, and Chili-Garlic Oil; Lil' Tofu Po'Boys with Creamy Red Bell Pepper Sauce; Sweet Plantain and Fresh Corn Cakes; Pumpkin-Peanut Fritters; Jamaican Patties Stuffed with Maque Choux; Ambrosia Ice Pops.
Maybe one day, when Bryant comes over for that dinner party, he'll cook me some of that stuff.