African Festival of the Arts celebrates 25th anniversary in Chicago

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On Labor Day weekend, one of the largest festivals in the city, the African Festival of The Arts, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in historic Washington Park. (WLS)

On Labor Day weekend, one of the largest festivals in the city, the African Festival of The Arts, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in historic Washington Park. More than 300,000 people are expected. This year's theme is "Cultural Connection." The annual African festival features speakers, authors and pavilion hosts, and it emphasizes the role of art and culture in violence prevention.

Patrick Woodtor, founder of the African Festival of the Arts, and Queen Bumni, Nigerian Queen of JUJU music and artist-in-residence for African International House, came into our ABC 7 Eyewitness News studio to tell us about the event and showcase some traditional dishes. Africa International House USA, Inc., is a center that educates all peoples to the works and contributions of African cultures.

The 25th Annual African Festival of the Arts
Labor Day Weekend: Aug. 29-Sept. 1
10 a.m.-10 p.m.
51st and Cottage Grove Avenue
Washington Park, Chicago

$10 through Aug. 29
$20 at the gate Labor day weekend
#AFAChi25 for live tweet coverage and pre-festival updates

Featured Recipes:
1. Jollof Rice

1 (2-2 1/2 lbs.) chicken
1 lb. stewing beef
1 lb. smoked ham or bacon
2 onions
1 can tomato paste
1 cup cooking oil
1 pkg. frozen mixed vegetables
3 cups rice
Black pepper

1. Cut up chicken, beef, and ham or bacon. Season with salt and black pepper.
2. Flour and fry chicken and beef
3. Into Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, pour one cup oil (use oil in which chicken and beef have been fried)
4. Saute sliced onions and 1 sliced Liberian hot pepper (optional). To this, add meat, ham and tomato paste; stir well.
5. If chicken is tough, it may be added at this time
6. Pour in a little more than the quantity of water required to cook the rice. Season with salt and black pepper. Cover and bring to a boil and cook over low heat for 10 minutes
7. Add chicken (if tender), mixed vegetables and rice
8. As soon as mixture starts to boil, stir and reduce flame to lowest and cook until rice is done
9. Raise from bottom and sides often to prevent sticking

Note: Rice should be loose and fluffy, not soggy. Cabbage wedges may be used instead of mixed vegetables, if desired. Add cabbage when flame has been reduced.

2. Cassava Leaves
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 60-80 minutes

300g cassava leaves, pounded
300g beef (or other meat), wash and cut into cubed
3-4 tablespoons of peanut butter
200 ml palm oil
1 fish, any of your choice (tilapia or mackerel)
2 onions, finely chopped
3 fresh okra, finely chopped
Hot or chili Pepper, to taste
2 bouillon cubes (or Maggi cubes)
2 tablespoons crayfish, ground
4 cups water (1l)
Salt, to taste

Variations: You can substitute half of the water with coconut milk if you wish to vary this recipe.
Adding the peanut butter is totally optional; many people do not add it, but I love it in the sauce.

1. In a cooking pot, add the meat, fish, salt and two cups of water. Then bring it to boil for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked. When the fish is done, remove it from the pot. Let it cool down and remove the bones from fish and set aside
2. Add the cassava leaves in the pot. Let it simmer for 5 minutes and add another cup of water and peanut butter in the sauce
3. Pour the palm oil in the sauce and add onion, chili pepper and bouillon cubes. Then simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat. You will need to stir the sauce occasionally to prevent it from burning
4. Return the fish in the pot and salt to taste
5. Add the crayfish and okra. Stir well and cook for 15 minutes. Do not forget to stir occasionally until done

3. Fried Plantains

2 ripe plantains
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Choose plantains with some yellow color on the skin. Peel. Slice diagonally, into about 1/2 inch thick pieces. Set aside.
2. Heat a large skillet. Cover bottom of skillet with vegetable oil. When oil is hot (about 350 degrees) add plantain slices and cook over medium heat until lightly brown on first side. Turn and cook until lightly brown on second side. Watch carefully. Do not overcook.
3. Remove from pan when lightly brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels before serving. Makes six servings. Cooking time 5-10 minutes.

4. African-Style Fish Gravy

8 bone-in red snapper steaks (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon red chili powder or ground red pepper (cayenne)
4 large onions, divided (2 onions quartered, 2 onions chopped)
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut up
1 fresh red chile pepper OR 1/2 sweet red bell pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Mixed Spice - divided (recipe follows)
Peanut oil for frying
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 bunch chopped fresh basil (about 1/2 cup packed)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 fish or chicken flavored bouillon cubes

1. Rinse the fish steaks under cold running water and pat dry
2. With a mortar and pestle, grind together the salt, black pepper, garlic and chili powder. Rub the paste into both sides of the fish steaks. Place in a rectangular baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes
3. Meanwhile, combine the quartered onions, tomatoes, chile pepper (or bell pepper) and 1 tablespoon of the mixed spice in a blender. Puree until smooth, adding a little water if necessary. Set aside
4. In a skillet large enough to hold the fish steaks in a single layer, warm 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Fry the fish steaks, turning once, until crisp but not blackened, 2 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the steaks with a slotted spatula and cover to keep warm. Set aside
5. In the same skillet, warm 1 cup of the peanut oil over medium heat. Carefully pour in the pureed onion mixture and the tomato paste; fry for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the 1 1/2 cups of water, the basil, oregano, bouillon cubes and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of mixed spice. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat. Adjust the sauce for seasoning
6. Remove the bones from the fish steaks. Place the steaks in the sauce and add the chopped onions. Continue cooking over medium heat until the sauce is reduced by half. The sauce should not be pourable, but rather thick and spoonable, and the fish should flake coarsely but not disintegrate. Serves six
7. Serve fish gravy over boiled white rice or with black eyed peas and ham hocks. Accompany with boiled cassava, plantains or sweet potatoes.

1 teaspoon paprika or 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme leaves

1 teaspoon Nigerian dark red chili powder or ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon crushed thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients in either the mild or spicy blend, adjusting a particular spice to your flavor preference. Keep in a covered jar.

6. African-Style Spinach or Collards
Yield: 8 portions
Use spinach; cooking time to 10 minutes.

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine:
4 bundles of fresh spinach, washed and cut in small pieces
1/2 ib. bacon, cut in 1- to 2-inches pieces*
1 large onion, sliced
1 tbs. salt
1 tbs. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. black pepper and
1 quart water

Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add 1 oz. butter or oil

1. Cook for 15 minutes or longer until vegetables are tender. Correct the seasoning to your taste
2. Serve in a 2-quart bowl
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