Fusion: the best of both worlds, or the worst of everything?
When it comes to music, I liked 70s jazz fusion when nobody else did. Everyone complained: it’s not real jazz they shouted. It’s bad, self-indulgent rock, they whined. It’s soul that won’t move anyone living they lamented. But I still liked it. Turns out I wasn’t alone. Many fusion fans were hiding from the directors and enforcers of jazz taste. And that explains why I would fruitlessly dig and dig in the used record stores for 70s fusion LPs. I would get ecstatic when I found one, only to realize the next time I went to the CD section, that it had just been re-released. Digitally remastered. With bonus tracks. Turns out collectors wouldn’t trade in the rare grooves until they had a digital replacement. Fortunately there’s only me and a few underground hip-hop producers competing for this stuff, but still.
This fusion dish is much easier to pull together than obscure Herbie Hancock funk. The only tricks are cooking the sweet potatoes the way you want in time with the greens and getting it as hot as you like. True yams are very rare in American grocery stores, what we have are various kinds of sweet potatoes. For this dish I suggest one of the orange varieties often labelled as yams. True yams and sweet potatoes as well as greens are popular in African cooking. Tomatoes are common, though not native, much African cooking is hot and spicy, and peanuts are a common garnish. I add mushrooms in place of meat for extra nutrition, and because I like them.
African Fusion Mixed Greens and Yams
1 bunch each kale and collards, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch chunk fresh ginger, minced
fresh hot chilis, minced to taste (I usually use 1 serrano or 2 jalapenos)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 C chopped fresh tomatoes
2-3 C chopped yams
1 can kidney beans
Chili paste to taste (like sambal oelek or Sriracha)
chopped roasted peanuts
Saute the onion, garlic, and peppers in a little water or broth for about 5 min. while prepping other ingredients. Add the yams. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they begin to release their juices. Add tomatoes and greens, stir well and cover. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until greens and yams are done. Add water as needed to keep everything steaming along happily. When veggies are done, add beans and stir in enough chili paste to get desired amount of heat. Garnish with peanuts. Serve on top of cooked millet, polenta, rice, or scoop up with pieces of injera.
Groovy Herbie Hancock Headhunters jams, optional, but highly recommended