“Yolele! Recipes From the Heart of Senegal,” the recently published debut cookbook from Brooklyn chef and restaurateur Pierre Thiam, is a vibrant and compelling collection, and a terrific introduction to a less familiar cuisine.
Beautifully shot by Adam Bartos, Thiam’s book reads like a tour guide, with recipes for popular African street food, hearty traditional stews, and dishes showcasing the country’s Portuguese and Vietnamese influences, as well as the significant imprint of French colonialism (Senegal was a French colony until 1960).
The food is fascinating, adventurous and deeply flavorful. Many of the dishes first appeared on the menu of his Brooklyn restaurant, Le Grand Dakar. Spicy kebabs are marinated in a traditional spice rub before being rolled in ground peanuts; Cornish game hens are stuffed with fonio, an ancient grain that was a regional staple. An easy black-eyed pea salad (salatu niebe) is a riot of colors on the plate -- cooked peas (native to Africa), diced tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, scallions and parsley. Dressed with lime juice and olive oil -- and a minced habanero pepper -- the salad is a perfect side to grilled kebabs, or simply spooned into a lettuce cup.