Plants reign supreme in ‘Vegetable Kingdom’

Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry.
Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry.

One morning, while checking out the produce at his neighborhood farmers market, Bryant Terry stopped at a stand that offered samples of crunchy, sweet slices of fennel. Captivated by the aniselike aroma, he purchased four bunches and challenged himself to turn the fennel into a recipe that would win over his young daughters.

He braised the bulbs in a Cuban mojo-inspired garlic-citrus sauce, seasoned them with plantain powder, and topped them with dollops of sunchoke cream. That recipe, he claims, earned smiles from even his finicky 5-year-old daughter, and a place in his fifth cookbook, "Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes" (Ten Speed, $30).

The James Beard Award-winning chef and food justice activist has dedicated much of his life to educating others about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating through the lens of the African Diaspora. At home, Terry is determined to teach his kids to eat their vegetables, while appreciating the contributions of their ancestors “in a world where European cuisine is often at the center and Black food is often at the margins.”

Born in Memphis, educated in New Orleans and New York, and now raising a family with his Asian-American wife in San Francisco, Terry channels those influences into vibrant plant-based recipes — from Jerk Tofu Wrapped in Collard Leaves to Farro and Kidney Beans with Burnt Scallions — capable of exciting even die-hard carnivores.

Chapters are built around parts of the vegetable — seeds, bulbs, stems, and so on. Scraps often find homes in sauces and homemade seasonings. With each recipe, Terry — who comes from a family of musicians — suggests a soundtrack: Cab Calloway’s “Jumpin Jive” for Hoppin’ John-Stuffed Peppers; Solange’s “Stay Flo” for Mashed Kabocha.

Meditate on the dish as you listen, he advises, and you may get the connection. “If not, all good. Just eat and enjoy the sounds.”

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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