Blueberry-Peach Salad with Sesame-Ginger Balsamic Vinaigrette
In this installment of Diaspora Dining, Jessica B. Harris' series on foods of the African diaspora, fresh summer fruit stars in a salad that's perfect for serving at your Juneteenth barbecue.
Although it was originally celebrated in Texas in 1866, commemorating the anniversary of the day African Americans there first got word of the Emancipation Proclamation, Juneteenth only became an official federal holiday in 2021—just two days before it was to be celebrated nationally for the first time on June 19. This year for the holiday, Dr. Jessica B. Harris is offering up this simple salad featuring the juiciest fruits of the season: peaches and blueberries.
It seems as though it was a short time ago that folks were rejoicing because Juneteenth had become a national holiday, created to honor the emancipation of enslaved people of the African diaspora in the United States. The announcing of the official legal holiday happened on us so rapidly that some of us were caught short with celebratory ideas last year. This year, all of that has changed. There was plenty of time to prepare for the celebration, made even more exciting because the holiday has finally been recognized by the federal government, and to get the barbecue fixings and the grill fired up for neighbors and family. There was time to think of the reasons for the holiday, to honor those who toiled in the fields and in sorrow's kitchens around the country. But, in honoring the past and looking at the present, perhaps it's time to think about additional healthful options for the traditional spread of barbecue dishes such as coleslaw, potato salad, red drink and rich desserts. One way to start is with this simple salad that puts the fruits of the season at the forefront.
Salads are usually about crunchy raw vegetables drizzled with a variety of dressings. I, though, like to play with my food and often find myself adding unexpected ingredients to my salads. I am particularly fond of fruit additions. I combine raspberries and avocados, mix watermelon and tomatoes, or slip a blueberry or two into the mix. I might add a crunch of caramelized pistachios or hazelnuts or a topping of sesame seeds. I also like to vary my dressings from the usual offerings.
This salad breaks some of the classic salad rules and begs to differ. It adds the sweetness of blueberries and the juicy sweetness of fresh peaches to a healthy amount of crisp Bibb lettuce. It tops them with a flurry of red onion and adds a dressing that combines the nuttiness of sesame oil with the bite of a white balsamic vinegar, plus the sweetness of honey and a zing of ginger. It's a salad that can hold its own against the 'cue, adds color and flavor to the table, and announces that while celebrating the past and savoring in the present, we are all mindful of the need for a healthy future.
This essay is part of the series Diaspora Dining: Foods of the African Diaspora. In this monthly column with essays and recipes by Jessica B. Harris, Ph.D., we explore the rich culinary traditions of the African diaspora. Harris is a culinary historian and the author of 13 books related to the African diaspora, including Vintage Postcards from the African World (University Press of Mississippi), My Soul Looks Back (Scribner) and High on the Hog (Bloomsbury USA), on which the Netflix documentary series High on the Hog is based. She is the 2020 recipient of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. For more from Harris on EatingWell, see Migration Meals: How African American Food Transformed the Taste of America and her Juneteenth Celebration Menu. Follow her on Instagram @drjessicabharris.
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