John Yanga’s Mixed Veggie Platter with Chicken | Kitchen Vignettes for PBS | PBS Food

John Yanga’s Mixed Veggie Platter with Chicken

One challenge when you’re blessed with access to plenty of fresh local vegetables is what to do with them all. How do you prepare them in a way that brings out their flavors and makes everyone want to eat them? Vegetable farmer John Yanga has spent a lot of time pondering this very question.

He loves to not only grow vegetables, but also to come up with creative ways to prepare them. He is truly a vegetable whisperer, expertly transforming every imaginable vegetable from his farm into exquisite dishes. As one of his fellow church-goers says at the end of this episode, he turns even the often shunned kale into something appetizing!

John Yanga's Meals

John was born in South Sudan and studied theology in Egypt before fleeing the war in his homeland with his mother and his wife. He moved to the United States as a refugee in 2000 and soon began working and training with Cultivating Community, an organization based in Portland, Maine whose work is rooted in the belief that everyone has the right to good food. The organization empowers New Americans by teaching them sustainable farming practices and connecting them to the community through its food hub. John is a graduate of Cultivating Community’s farmer training program, the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project, and now has his own farm plot where he grows a gorgeous assortment of mixed vegetables, including many African varieties that can be hard to find in Maine. John and his wife sell their organic vegetables at one of Portland’s busy farmers markets. Over the years, John has also spearheaded many marketing innovations, such as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) food share for the Sudanese community.

John Yanga at his greenhouse

In this episode, John shares one of his favorite ways to prepare vegetables, as a mixed veggie platter with roasted chicken thighs. He first cooks up a fragrant chicken broth and uses the stock to cook the many vegetables he harvested, which he sautés separately. For instance he does African eggplants in one pan, Italian eggplant in another (because they require different cooking times), summer squash and carrots together, and then all the greens together. In the video, he also made some roasted winter squashes and green peppers stuffed with sautéed veggies (though this is not officially part of the recipe provided below). He then assembles all this onto trays that are kept warm in the oven. The chicken used to make the broth is also roasted on top of potatoes wedges.

John Yanga's Roasted Vegetables

John uses fresh herbs and spices generously, which, combined with the chicken broth creates a nourishing feast that is bursting with flavor and which he loves to share with his church community.

John Yanga cooking

As John says in the video, he loves showing people how vegetables can be the centerpiece of a meal. And while not everyone gets excited about vegetables, it’s often because they have not had them prepared in an appetizing way. Sometimes it’s also because they’ve lost their splendor due to being shipped from halfway around the world and then sitting on a grocery shelf too long. Spinach for instance can lose up to 90 percent of its nutrients within just 24 hours of being harvested! Sourcing vegetables locally, whether at a farmers market, farm stand, pick-your-own, or perhaps even from your own garden makes a huge difference not only in terms of freshness and taste, but also nutrient content. Even in cold winter climates, farmers markets usually have plenty of locally-grown storage vegetables like cabbage, winter radishes, celeriac, beets, carrots, winter squashes. Some have year-round greens even in cold climates. As John says in the video, locally-grown, organic vegetables just taste different from the ones you’d buy at the grocery store. So it’s worth seeking them out in your local community, not just for the flavor and nutrient content but to support farmers like John who work so hard to grow delicious nutritious food for their communities.

John Yanga’s Mixed Veggie Platter with Chicken

John’s recipe leaves room for adjustments based on whatever vegetables are in season in your area. For instance, if you don’t have African eggplant or cabbage, feel free to substitute with what you have on hand. Serves 8 to 12 people.

Learn more about John on the Kitchen Vignettes blog.



  • Chicken Stock Ingredients:
  • 8 cups water
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled & whole
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 small green peppers (if available)
  • 1 handful chives and other fresh herbs (if available)
  • Other veggies odds & ends to give flavor (John used the ends of summer squash and carrots.)
  • Sautéed Cabbage & Kale
  • 1 small head of green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful chives, minced
  • 1 large bunch of greens, chopped (can be a mix of kale, Swiss chard, spinach)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Sautéed African Eggplant
  • 2 African eggplants, trimmed and diced (John used a variety from Mali but you can substitute with what is available to you)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Spices to your taste (John likes to use Tajin spice mix, which includes lime, chili & salt)
  • Sautéed Italian Eggplant
  • 2 Italian eggplants
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Spice mix
  • Sautéed Summer Squash and Carrots
  • 3 small summer squashes / zucchini, sliced
  • 1 small bunch of carrots, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Fresh chopped herbs to taste
  • Roasted Chicken Ingredients:
  • Chicken thighs that have been simmering in the stock pot
  • 2 sliced onions
  • 2 small sliced green peppers (if available)
  • 4 large potatoes, cut into large wedges
  • Fresh chopped herbs: basil, rosemary, chives, or mint (if available)
  • Salt, pepper, and spice mix to taste
  • Olive oil


  1. Make the chicken stock:
    In a large pot, on medium-high heat, bring all the ingredients to a boil and then lower heat to simmer everything together for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken for roasting and if you wish, strain the broth.

  2. Prepare mixed veggie platter:

    Sautéed Cabbage & Kale
    Heat the oil in a skillet or pot on medium-low heat. Add cabbage and chives and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped greens and cook for another few minutes. If you wish, add a few ladles of the chicken broth to give flavor and cook for another few minutes. Don’t cook any long than needed so the greens preserve some of their vibrant color.

    Sautéed African Eggplant
    Warm 2 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic, eggplant, salt, pepper, and spices. Cook from 5-10 minutes on medium-low heat. Add a ladle of chicken stock halfway through. (African eggplant doesn’t have to be cooked as long as Italian-style eggplants so remove from the heat when it still has some crunch).

    Sautéed Italian Eggplant
    Warm 2 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic, eggplant, and salt, pepper, and spices. Cook from 10 to 15 minutes on medium-low heat. Add a ladle of chicken stock halfway through. The eggplant should be very soft and browned when done.

    Sautéed Summer Squash and Carrots
    Warm 2 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes until translucent. Add the slice carrots and garlic and cook until carrots are soft, about 7 minutes. Add a ladle full of chicken stock halfway through. Add the sliced squash and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until the squash is tender. Add the chopped fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

  3. Roast the chicken legs:
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil 2 large baking sheet pans. Lay down onion slices, green peppers, potato wedges, and herbs. Place the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and spice mix. Roast for around 20-30 minutes until chicken is golden on top and meat falls off the bone.

  4. Arrange the platters:
    On one or two large platters, arrange your cooked vegetables into four strips, the cabbage/kale mix, the African eggplant, the Italian eggplant, and the sautéed carrots and summer squash. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to cool a few minutes. Serve everything together and enjoy! (You can also prepare some rice using the remainder of the chicken broth if you’d like to add a grain to the meal).

Aube Giroux is a food writer, a James Beard award-winning documentary filmmaker and a passionate organic gardener and home cook, who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.

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