Meet culinary artist Erica Nkansah

. September 1, 2017.
Steak, Baked Mac-n-Cheese, and Baked Potato with Brussels Sprout Garnish.
Steak, Baked Mac-n-Cheese, and Baked Potato with Brussels Sprout Garnish.

Browsing the local food scene aside other Ann Arborites, you may have noticed the food blog of local Ann Arbor parent Erica Nkansah, an inspired culinary artist who loves to cook for family and friends.

Culinary artistry as inspired living

From Ghana to Holland to Michigan, Erica Nkansah’s passion for cooking began early on, as her parents and siblings all love to make food. She now lives in the Ann Arbor area with her husband Michael and their 2-year-old daughter, Ava. Nkansah credits her husband, her “No. 1 fan,” with inspiring her to cook and write her food blog, This African Cooks, where she shares recipes and photographs of her culinary creations, and conveys the sentiment that “this African cooks, and you should too!”

Farm Bread with Olive Oil and Hummus

Farm Bread with Olive Oil and Hummus.

Nkansah finds preparing meals as an excellent way to relax from a busy day at Henry Ford Hospital, where she works as a post-partum care nurse. A self-proclaimed “home cook foodie who loves to cook,” she supports local, organic farms and businesses. Often grocery shopping on the way home from work, she notes there are “a lot more specialty stores than people may realize,” especially for African and Middle Eastern cuisine. As for the story behind the name?

“I’m African and I like to cook.  I like people to know I’m African. I like to explore beyond African cuisine. I like multi-ethnic cooking.”

Family time and social cuisine

“Help you, Momma, help you?” asks her daughter, as they don their “Mom and me” aprons and set to work, adding a dash of toddler magic to the mix. Ava likes to whip stuff with the whisk, and when they bake cookies she puts dough on the cookie sheets. Notably, the Captain Crunch French Toast and fruit salads often have a sudden mysterious absence of strawberries.

 

Culinary artist Erica Nkansah with her 2-year-old daughter, Ava.

Culinary artist Erica Nkansah with her 2-year-old daughter, Ava. Photo credit: JC-Penney-Studios

So where did this local working mom learn to cook? “I like experimenting and trying different things,” says Nkansah, who often hosts social occasions at home with family and friends. While a firm believer that everyone should try their hand at cooking, she knows a lot of people don’t like to cook or are simply too busy.

“It’s easier when cooking is something that you like to do; it can be very soothing,” she says. Keeping this in mind, she cooks for friends and coworkers, frequently bringing a delicious dish of lasagna or spaghetti to work. This inspired Nkansah and her coworkers to plan an international cuisine potluck for their entire department.

Where might we find her culinary masterpieces? “I would like to set up at Eastern Market,” says Nkansah. She has a vision of soon branching into catering events and weddings, but until then, you can follow her food blog at thisafricancooks.com for delicious recipes and beautiful food photography. You’ll also find gorgeous photos of her unique creations at instagram.com/thisafricancooks/ on Instagram.

What is your go-to easy family recipe for busy nights?
Any noodle dish, 30 minutes and done! Spaghetti in just a few minutes, just add sausage or meatballs. Ragu sauce with sweet basil and tomato; or sauce from scratch: tomato sauce and olive oil, smoked paprika, basil, red pepper, and fresh herbs.
What dish do you make to impress?
Asian glazed salmon with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus or green beans. People always love the salmon! Ginger, garlic and other spices really bring out the flavor.
Where do you go to find those hard-to-find ingredients?
Juniperberries from the Holiday Market in Royal Oak or Canton.
Favorite place to eat out in Washtenaw County?
Antonio’s Coney Island for the Guatemalan breakfast, and La Torre Taqueria is one of the best places around for Mexican cuisine. I also like the Home Brewery.