Food writer and cookbook author Nicole A. Taylor is stopping by the TODAY kitchen to celebrate Juneteenth with festive recipes from her new cookbook, "Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations." She shows us how to make grilled chicken burgers, fresh pea and corn salad with buttermilk dressing and chocolaty icebox cake with homemade wafers.
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On "A Different World," a late-1980s sitcom set at the fictional Hillman College, the homecoming weekend episodes are the most memorable story lines. At the Pit, the campus café owned and managed by Vernon Gaines — played by the late Lou Myers — half-priced victory burgers were served during football games, and the Pit's ordering window, stuffed with bus buckets, was more than a place for laughs and french fries; it was self-affirming TV, at once aspirational and a time capsule of Black life. Because beef burgers are always on the cookout menu, I challenged myself to create a juicy chicken burger that's just as satisfying.
In my American South, fresh shelled lady peas, crowders, cream peas — delicate and pearl-shaped — show up at the neighborhood market as a welcome sign of summer. But frozen varieties of these delicious peas are so much more common that I have taken to making mental notes of where I can buy them. At the Forsyths Farmers' Market in Savannah, Georgia, Joseph Fields Farms sells shelled peas in sealed storage bags, sitting in iced coolers. Farmview Market, a local food emporium located in Eatonton, Georgia, stocks their varieties in a refrigerated section alongside Rock House Creamery buttermilk. When I'm in Athens, I stop by Bell's Food Store, a family owned store and country-cooking emporium.
Juneteenth coincides with summer heat. It's a time when a lot of us are trying to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. This dessert requires minimal baking and so is perfect for the dog days of June. When you think of red foods and Black food traditions, red velvet cake might come to mind, but red food coloring was a luxury until the late 1930s and cream cheese frosting was introduced to the masses in the 1940s. In fact, it was probably a fluffy dark brown cake made with chocolate or cocoa that showed up at Black celebrations. I'm throwing it back to the original color with this dessert.
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