Chef Bryant Terry (center) with father and son, Mario (l) and Melvin (r) Van Pebbles.

Sweet Sweetback's Salad with Roasted Beet Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 Servings

You bled my momma!

You bled my poppa!

(But you won't bleed ME!)

— as echoed over Earth Wind, and Fire's music in the 1971 film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

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Last weekend I was in Los Angeles filming an episode for "Mario's Greenhouse," a television series that follows Mario Van Peebles, his wife, their five children, and his father (Melvin Van Peebles) as they renovate their home in an environmentally friendly manner and embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. I was thrilled to help Mario prepare a meal, but I was most excited to be in the presence of Melvin.

I created this salad not so much in honor of Melvin's cult classic Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, or the moving biopic directed by Mario, but more in honor of Melvin's influence on me as a creative person. In addition to being a screenwriter, director, actor, and film editor, Melvin's creative pursuits include being a painter, sculptor, children's book author, dancer, novelist, journalist, translator, composer, recording artist, playwright, Broadway producer and stockbroker. He is the first African American to hold a seat on the American Stock Exchange. And at 75 years old he's still going strong. In fact, he has a new film, Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-Itchy-Footed Mutha, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival April 27. Black genius indeed.

Like Sweetback, the protagonist of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, this salad is bold (beets), bitter (argula), earthy (walnuts), and, sweet (pause) (agave-sugar).

Soundtrack

"30 Cops Or More" by Boogie Down Productions from Edutainment

"The Finest" MF DOOM from Operation Doomsday

"Come on Feet" by Quasimoto from The Unseen

"Hydrant Game" by Quasimoto from The Further Adventures of Lord Quas

Bonus Film Suggestion: How to Eat Your Watermelon In White Company (and Enjoy It) (2005), directed by Joe Angio. This documentary chronicles Melvin Van Peeble's astonishing career.

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