I take my southern superstitions seriously.
So every year I endeavor to eat the following on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck, prosperity, a stocked larder and happiness.
A true southern New Year’s celebration contains the following items…
1) Pork – Pigs root forward, insuring a year full of progress, solid moving forward and prosperity (and tasty, tasty ham and bacon too!).
2) Collard greens – the South is not the only culture to include “greens” of some kind. Greens which resemble folded money are considered the keystone for good money luck in the New Year. Mustard greens, beet greens, kale, spinach are all lucky but collard wins the prize in the south.
3) Black eyed peas – According to legend any legumes are considered lucky since beans, peas and lentils also resemble coins. Lentils are famous on new years in Spain and other countries…but in the Deep South after a nasty Civil war skirmish in Vicksburg, the starving folk discovered black eye peas, which was truly lucky in keeping them alive. Mostly eaten today as “Hoppin’ john” a tasty spicy black-eyed pea and rice dish.
Legend also has it that whatever you are doing and the folks you are hanging out with gives you a pretty good idea what your new year will consist of…
Luckily for me, I was surrounded by friends and family, of the human and of the kitty variety. My home was warm, the larder was stocked and I was feeling very, very good physically and mentally. I say it bodes very, very well for the coming year.
But…what do you do if like me, someone in your circle doesn’t “like” black eyed peas?
I know, crazy to me, but my best friend Anne, my total partner in crime concerning all things food related for the last 25 years…doesn’t like black-eyed peas. In light of her unfaltering good taste in everything else food and the fact that she’s a “northern gal” I totally forgive her. And also endeavor to make her happy, so I got creative this year. Instead of the usual Ham steak, hopping john, collard greens trio I tried to create something that everyone would like. Even Anne…and happy to report I think I did a pretty good job, because people were fighting over the soup and I caught Emma actually licking the bowl. I also redid the collard greens by adding them to artichokes for a twist on artichoke dip. And instead of the usual ham steak, I added cream, hash browns and cheese for a super bake that’s easy to make and works for breakfast lunch or dinner.
So here’s to you and yours…I hope you have the best New Year ever. Go cook yourself up some luck!
Spicy Black Eyed Pea and Tomato Bisque
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup diced onions plus a little more for garnish
A good size pinch of black pepper and salt
Teaspoon plus of Paprika – to taste
Teaspoon plus of Smoked Paprika – to taste
A pinch of oregano
A few dashes hot sauce (I’d recommend Tamazula)
2 can’s Trappey’s Black eyed peas with jalapeno
2 large cans of Manzano Roma tomatoes (seeded, diced and the juice reserved)
1 cup cream plus some to garnish
Directions: Heat up a pot to medium add the olive oil, when it’s hot add the onions and stir for about 3 minutes, you want them soft so lower the heat if they are cooking too fast. Add in the salt and pepper, stir for another minute. Add the paprika’s and toast it with the onions turning up the heat a little bit. When the flavors have toasted and the onions are soft, turn up the heat a little more and add in a tablespoon at a time about a ¼ cup of the reserved tomato juice, letting the juice incorporate completely between each spoon full.
Add in the black-eyed peas, the diced tomatoes and the hot sauce, the rest of the reserved tomato juice and bring to boiling. Add in the oregano, turn down the heat to medium and let simmer about 15 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, blend the bejezzus out of it for about 3 minutes or more, getting it as smooth as you can. (you can do it in batches in a regular blender, just make sure you leave the lid open a bit so the steam/heat pressure doesn’t make the lid explode off…very painful with hot liquid, trust me you do not want this to happen)
Add the cream, blend together and it’s ready to serve. Garnish with a drizzle of cream, a bit of the diced onion and a sprinkle of the smoked paprika. (You could use sour cream or yogurt as well)
Serves 8, or me, Anne and Emma.
Artichoke Greens Dip
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts (drained thoroughly and chopped)
1 can collard greens drains (drained thoroughly (really thoroughly)!) and chopped)
2 cloves garlic (diced very fine or put through a garlic press)
¼ cup finely diced onion
1 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise
¼ cup regular or low-fat sour cream
1 8 oz package shredded parmesan cheese
Dash of salt and pepper
Directions: Mix all together and cook in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with crackers, or bread sticks or tortilla chips.
Ham Cheese Bake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, oil a 9 x 13 baking dish
1 bag Ore-Ida frozen hash browns
3 cups diced ham
2 bags, 8 oz. each of shredded sharp cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack or Gruyère or a combo of all three ( Gruyère makes a more elegant outcome if you can afford to use just that…)
½ cup diced onion
2 cups cream (you can use half-n-half or milk, but it will be a little more creamy delicious if you use the cream)
A few tablespoons yellow mustard (I just eyeballed it by squirting it out of the bottle)
2 teaspoons beau monde seasoning, if you can find it, or a little oregano and celery salt
2 teaspoons of paprika
Sour cream for garnish
Directions: Put a solid layer of the hash browns in the baking pan (about half the bag).
Layer half the ham and onion, sprinkle with half the spices and drizzle some mustard on top. Top with half the cheese.
Repeat. After all is assembled, drizzle the cream evenly over the entire top. Sprinkle a little paprika on top and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
And even though Anne made me write the recipe for the soup down then and there…she left the can of black-eyed peas on the table when she left this morning, I guess some habits are hard to break right away…I’ll save them for her. 🙂 Happy New Year!