Jon’s grandfather Howard learned to cook in the military, and he cooked for a living afterward. He was known to make mad trays of mac ’n’ cheese and mad sweet potato pies—the man only knew how to cook in bulk. He added coconut flakes to his sweet potato mixture to give the pie a little crunch, which has become a family tradition.
We like ube, or purple yam, which comes from the Philippines and shows up in desserts like halo-halo (and a shout-out to the Negritos, the Indigenous peoples throughout the Philippines and nearby islands). Sweet potato pie is a staple in many Black American households; we’re remixing the spread with purple, which symbolizes abundance and wealth. To your health!
1. Heat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
2. Roast the sweet potato for 1 hour; you should be able to easily pierce it with a fork when it’s cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool; reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C). Peel the cooled sweet potato and purée in a food processor.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the cane sugar, date sugar, coconut flakes, cornstarch, cardamom, agar agar, nutmeg, and salt and stir to combine.
4. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut milk and the sweet potato purée. Add to the dry mixture and stir to combine, then fold in the melted butter. The consistency should be like a thick cake batter.
5. Pour the mixture into the piecrust and bake for 50 minutes, rotating the pan after 30 minutes. The crust will be browned when it’s ready. Allow the pie to cool before serving. Optional: Garnish with whipped cream. Enjoy.
Excerpted from Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen by Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker, with Osayi Endolyn (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photography copyright © 2022 by Nayquan Shuler.
Originally featured in Striking Plant-Forward Recipes from a Bronx-Based Culinary Collective