New Orleans Calas

By Suzannah Schneider | August 1, 2014

Photo by rdpeyton
New Orleans Calas

Photo by rdpeyton

You know about beignets, but have you heard of calas? Calas are a snack or dessert from New Orleans. They’re a simple yet scrumptious blend of leftover rice stirred into an sugary egg batter, then deep fried and topped with powdered sugar. The process is much like the quintessential beignet, but the history is much more dynamic.

It’s likely that calas came to New Orleans through slaves from the rice-growing parts of Africa, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. Beginning with the French rule of the 1700s, slaves were usually given Sundays off each week. Calas vendors, the so-called “calas women,” began selling the fritter-like bites outside of the famous St. Louis Cathedral to the well-heeled white churchgoers while calling, “Belle Calas! Tout chauds!” — “Beautiful calas! Very hot!”

The Spanish took control of Louisiana in the 1790s, making it legal for slaves to buy the right to their freedom with cortacion. This meant that calas was often the currency by which the enslaved became free people of color. Approximately 1,400 New Orleans slaves purchased their freedom under Spanish rule, although it is unknown how many did so with profits from calas. Street vendors selling calas and other street food remained prevalent in the city until the early 20th century, but the tradition dwindled and just one calas vendor remained in 1940.

However, Poppy Tooker, of Slow Food New Orleans and Louisana Eats!, is on a crusade to bring back this historic and delicious dessert. She emphasizes, “It was with calas money that many slaves freed themselves…this is an important dish!” For many New Orleanians, calas can have the evocative power to recreate memories of another era, and are a cornerstone of culture and cuisine.

Poppy’s recipe is adapted below. Her calas are beyond delectable. A recipe that requires 5-6 cups of oil for frying? Sign us up!

Chicken Jollof Rice

By Marcus Samuelsson | December 26, 2013

This dish, meant to be shared between the entire table, is a perfect meal to serve for Kwanzaa.
Chicken Jollof Rice

(Photo by jypsygen)

There are many of different versions of this fragrant one-pot meal. I season mine with curry powder and cinnamon, and add peanut butter for richness. This dish, meant to be shared between the entire table, is a perfect meal to serve for Kwanzaa.

Ambessa Tea Stories: Earl of Harlem Infused Wild and Brown Rice Salad

By Ashley Beck | June 19, 2013

photo by: kulinarno
photo by: kulinarno

Photo: kulinarno

Tea is a great way to add flavor to a dish without adding the extra calories. In this rice salad, Ambessa Earl of Harlem tea acts as a great compliment to the types of rice being used.  Adding citrus zest to the mix highlights the orange peel and bergamot flavors in the tea. The use of wild and brown rice creates layers of chewy texture and the fresh vegetables add a fabulous crunch.  Read More

Turmeric and Dried Fruit Spiced Rice Recipe

By Marnely Rodriguez-Murray | November 29, 2012

Turmeric and Dried Fruit Rice

Once the holidays start rolling in, my mind goes to rice. Whenever we had a family holiday dinner, there was always rice. The yellow rice with raisins and almonds, which to be fully honest, I wasn’t a fan of. The yellow color of the rice was surely artificial and I only like raisins as a snack, not in my rice. This rice recipe stirs up from that holiday rice served at my family table, this time with great spices and better dried fruits (at least in my opinion…sorry, Grandma!)

This version includes powdered turmeric and Aleppo pepper for spices; plump dried prunes and chewy dates add texture and nutrients; the rice is infused with cardamom pods and cinnamon, which make your home smell glorious while it’s cooking.

Serve this as the perfect side dish to a holiday meal, bringing color and texture to the table. You can substitute the prunes and dates for any dried fruit you have on hand: apricots, mangoes, and even dried pineapple would work perfectly in this dish.

Photos: Marnely Rodriguez-Murray

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Whether it’s finding the best goat tacos in LA, spotting a well-worn vintage bag in Sweden, or interviewing the “crab man” selling seafood on a corner in Harlem, we tell stories seen from Chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s point of view. MarcusSamuelsson.com strives to create conversations about food, nutrition, culture, art, and design. We want to find Read More


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