John Yanga’s Mixed Veggie Platter with Chicken

This meal, which includes several dishes including a vegetarian platter and a chicken platter, is based entirely on what John could harvest fresh at his farm during the first week of September. Every vegetable used to make these dishes was grown by John, with the help of his family! John runs Yanga Family Farms, located at Hurricane Valley Farm in West Falmouth. It’s an incubator farm managed by Cultivating Community. The farmland itself was protected from development by the Falmouth Land Trust. You can find John, his wife Rebecca, and their vegetables at the Wednesday and Saturday Portland farmers markets.

John was born in South Sudan and is also inspired in the kitchen by time he spent in Egypt many years ago. This recipe leaves lots of room for adjustments based on whatever fresh produce you have available. For example, if you don’t have African eggplant, or cabbage, feel free to just skip that component of the vegetable platter.

Step 1: Make chicken stock

This step results in a flavorful stock which is used in the cooking process (and could be used to make a soup later), and also starts the chicken cooking.

Ingredients

5 cups water

6 chicken legs

1 onion, cut into large chunks

3 garlic cloves, peeled & whole

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 small green peppers (if available)

1 handful chives (if available)

Other veggies odds & ends – John used the ends of some yellow summer squash

  • Simmer for 20 minutes
  • Then remove the chicken for roasting – see step 3.

Step 2: Prepare mixed veggie platter

The veggie platter involves 3 parts which should all be cooked in separate pans on the stove. If you have space feel free to cook them simultaneously. You can always re-heat later when you’re ready to serve the whole platter.

Part A: Cabbage & Kale

1 small head of green cabbage, roughly chopped

1 handful chives, minced

1 bunch of green kale, chopped

5-6 very small yellow summer squash, sliced into coins

  • Add 2 tbsp oil to a pot on medium-low heat
  • Add cabbage and sprinkle chives over top; do not add any water – the cabbage will slowly release its own water
  • Cook 5 minutes; then add summer squash
  • Cook 5 minutes longer; then add kale

Part B: African Eggplant

1 African eggplant, trimmed and diced (John used a variety from Mali – more info about this vegetable can be found here.)

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt & pepper to taste

Spice mix (John likes Tagin spice mix, which includes dried lime, chilis & salt)

  • Warm 2 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan
  • Add garlic
  • Add African eggplant and salt, pepper and spice mix
  • Cook from 5-10 minutes on medium-low heat
  • African eggplant doesn’t have to be cooked (unlike Italian eggplant) so John cooks it for less time, taking it off the heat when it still has some “crunch”.

Part C: Italian Eggplant

1 Italian eggplant, trimmed and diced (this is the type of eggplant that’s most common here in North America. You can use a variety like “Graffiti” which John used – it has white and purple stripes – or the traditional purple variety.)

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt & pepper to taste

Spice mix

  • Warm 2 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan
  • Add garlic
  • Add African eggplant and salt, pepper and spice mix
  • Cook from 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat
  • The eggplant should be very soft and browned when done

Step 3: Roast Chicken Legs

Once your stock has been cooking for 20-30 minutes, remove it from the heat. Whenever you are ready follow the instructions below to begin roasting the chicken.

Ingredients

The chicken legs you have been simmering in the stock pot

2 sliced onions

2 small green peppers (if available)

Herbs: basil, chives, or mint (if available)

Cooking oil

Salt/pepper to taste

Spice mix

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Oil 2 large baking sheet pans with cooking oil
  • Lay down onion and green pepper slices and herbs
  • Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and spice mix
  • Roast for 20-30 minutes; check chicken periodically to see if it is getting crispy and cooked through
  • You will be cutting the chicken off the bone as the final step, so it’s great if it could still use a few final minutes in the oven.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Step 4: Prepare sliced chicken Platter w/ Potatoes & Summer Squash

John serves the chicken with cooked tomatoes on a bed of diced potatoes and topped with sautéed summer squash.

To prepare the potatoes:

Fingerling potatoes, 3 cups diced, in half inch pieces (John used a variety of types, from pink AmaRosa to yellow Russian banana. Use whatever potatoes you can find, hopefully local & organically grown!)

1 cup diced tomatoes

Cooking oil

Chicken stock

  • Dice potatoes and begin frying on medium-low heat
  • After 10 minutes, add 1 cup tomatoes
  • Continue frying, adding small amounts of chicken stock as needed to prevent sticking
  • When potatoes are tender remove from the heat and set aside

To prepare the squash topping:

3 small summer squash, diced

1 cup tomato, diced

Cooking oil

Chicken stock

  • Fry squash in 1 tbsp oil on medium heat
  • After 5 minutes add 1 cup tomatoes
  • Continue frying until soft
  • Remove from heat and set aside

For the chicken with tomato sauce:

3 small tomatoes, diced

Salt & pepper, to taste

Spice mix, to taste

½ bouillon cube

  • In a small saucepan, sauté diced tomatoes in 1 tbsp oil on medium heat
  • Once soft, add seasonings and ½ bouillon cube
  • Allow to simmer at a low heat until it turns into a nice sauce
  • Remove the skin from the chicken you roasted
  • Cut the chicken meat off the bones
  • Mix the chicken pieces with the tomato sauce, and place in a casserole dish
  • Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to warm up and allow the flavors to combine

Step 5: Prepare Spicy Carrots (optional – for those who want a spicy side dish)

6 small carrots, peeled and diced

3 chopped jalapeno peppers

6 garlic cloves (John uses pickled garlic, but regular garlic works too!)

Cooking oil

  • Fry carrots in a small pan in 1 tbsp cooking oil on medium-low heat
  • Add garlic and jalapenos to the pan
  • After 5 minutes, add a small amount of chicken stock
  • Continue cooking approximately 10 more minutes, or until carrots are soft

Step 6: Arranging the Platters

On 1 large platter, arrange your cabbage/kale mix in down the center. Add the African Eggplant on one side, and the Italian Eggplant on the other side.

Fill a second large platter with the cooked potatoes. Remove the chicken from the oven and scoop it on top of the potatoes. Lastly, add the sautéed summer squash on top of the chicken, in a line down the middle.

Enjoy!

We loved seeing John at work in the kitchen, working his magic on such a wide variety of fresh vegetables grown less than 10 miles away! The meal that resulted was absolutely delicious. Thank you, John!

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