Philadelphia is one of the cities with the longest history of celebrating Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of enslavement in the United States. And even in this year of social distancing, there will be virtual festivals and pop-up takeout dinners that acknowledge the contributions and ongoing struggles of African Americans.
As more Americans are now aware of the holiday — some companies now recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday — food becomes a way to connect and to celebrate.
We talked to chefs with Philadelphia ties about the dishes that can bring people together. They offered these recipes that are meant to be shared and served family style on Juneteenth and beyond.
Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette
Chef Tiffani Rozier says that Juneteenth is a new celebration for her calendar. “We didn’t celebrate as a child, so it’s been such a pleasure to reacquaint myself with the holiday’s history.” Rozier’s Juneteenth dish for celebration was also one of her grandmother’s favorites, who had a particular love of the crisp and the crunchy.
“Making this salad reminds me of her, with her pie-shaped cutting board and paring knife, with the worn wooden handle and blade, wore down to the nub. She was the smartest woman I know, and taught me all I know about Black history.” Rozier said.
For this salad, the tomatoes and cucumber in large, rustic pieces, tumbled out into a large beautiful bowl, or oversize cutting board. Each piece is still gleaming and delicately pickled by a sweet, acidic dressing. This salad plays well with other ingredients like pickled onions, kalamata olives, hearts of palm, or lots of fresh, chopped herbs.
Serves four to six
3 cucumbers, preferably slicing or garden cucumbers, washed, deseeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces.
3 large heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, cored and cut into ½-inch wedges (see note)
⅓ cup Spanish olive oil
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
FOR THE DRESSING
Makes one cup
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ cup of chopped fresh herbs (dill, tarragon, parsley, basil, and/or mint), reserve two tablespoons for serving.
¼ teaspoon fine kosher salt, or to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place tomato wedges in a large bowl, toss to coat with the reserved olive oil and nutmeg. Set the bowl aside while you make the dressing.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, salt, and Dijon mustard until the honey and mustard are thoroughly incorporated. Slowly begin to whisk in oil until the dressing emulsifies and slightly thickens, gently whisk in chopped herbs.
Pro tip: Cradle your bowl in a kitchen towel to keep it steady so you can work hands-free.
Add the cucumbers to the bowl with the tomatoes and ¾ of a cup of the vinaigrette. Toss well, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (for flavors to blend) or up to several hours.
Taste for seasoning, adjust as needed, gently toss in remaining herbs just before serving. This is the time for add-ons like avocado, cheese, pickled onions, or very ripe tomatoes.
Pro tip: This recipe transitions into a panzanella at lighting speed with the addition of toasted or stale ciabatta or sourdough, a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and few splashes of olive oil
If your tomatoes are very ripe, add them just before serving so that they don't get mushy.
Tomatoes and cucumbers don’t always play well together, but that doesn’t mean this salad can’t be all cucumber or all tomato. Just make a 1 to 1 switch, toss with the vinaigrette, and dig in.
— Recipe courtesy of Tiffani Rozier
Alexander Smalls’ Southern Pound Cake
When we talked to the James Beard Award-winning cookbook author earlier this year, he told us about his neighbor, Ms. Means, who made the best pound cake in town. He remembers wanting a large slice that fills his hand. It’s a great all-season cake, a palette for fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream.
Makes one 9-inch tube cake
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 cups cake flour, plus more for the pan
⅛ teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ⅔ cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch tube pan and lightly dust it with flour, tapping out any excess.
In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, salt, and lemon zest.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition before adding the next. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing well after each addition before adding the next. Pour the batter into the prepared pan; tap the pan against the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
Bake until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a serving platter. Let cool until warm and serve.
— Recipe courtesy of ‘Meals, Music and Muses: Recipes from my African American Kitchen’
Elijah Milligan’s Gumbo
For a Juneteenth celebration, Philadelphia chef Elijah Milligan says the ideal meal is family style. There’s no better dish for sharing than gumbo for its layers of flavors.
1 pound andouille, diced
½ cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
½ cup carrot, diced
½ pound okra sliced
½ pound crabmeat (optional)
1 pound crawfish
1 pound (21-25) medium shrimp, cleaned, deveined
3 quarts fish or chicken stock
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 bunch chives, sliced
¼ cup vinegar
6-8 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
FOR THE ROUX
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ⅔ cups flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
In large pot on medium heat, sear diced andouille. Add onions, garlic, carrots, and bell peppers. Add chili and garlic powders, smoked paprika, Old Bay and salt, stirring occasionally until all are tender. Add Worcestershire, stock, and sachet if using. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes.
In separate pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, whisking constantly. For a medium color , cook for six to seven minutes. For a darker roux, cook for 10 minutes. Add butter and whisk until smooth.
Add roux and to gumbo, mixing well to incorporate. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add sliced okra, crab and shrimp and simmer until shrimp are cooked through. Add vinegar to finish.
Garnish with sliced chives. Serve over rice.
— Recipe courtesy of Elijah Milligan