No self-respecting Southerner would dream of beginning a new year without a heaping bowl of Hoppin’ John. No ma’am. Black-eyed peas simmered to creamy bite with jasmine rice plumped up in its savory broth insure the finest form of good luck, if only by the fact that you are mighty lucky to dine on such a humble, delectable dish.
Typically, Hoppin’ John is cooked with pork (This is, after all, The South) using pieces of ham hock or chunky bacon, to render rich smokiness. But, in our household, we cook up a vegetarian version with terrific results.
A hefty dose of garlic and onion cooked to translucence in olive oil makes a fine start. Be sure to shake in a little fire; crushed red pepper flakes begin to release their zing in warm oil. Adding vegetable stock to simmer the black-eyeds after they’ve had a roll around in the onion-garlic sautÃ© brings more flavor. A couple of bay leaves tossed into the broth is quite nice, too.
As with most legumes, when you have good fresh peas, it doesn’t take much to help them along. And, you don’t want to mask the black-eyed’s intrinsic creamy nature–you want to bolster!
If you use dry beans, it is best to soak them for for at least 4 hours. (It’s fine to soak them the day before.) Fresh peas (which I used this time) just need to be rinsed before cooking. The fresh peas take less time to cook–less than an hour, really. Soaked dried beans require anywhere from 2-3 hours.
When the peas are tender, but have a little resistance, add the rice. Cover and continue to simmer for 20 minutes or so. The rice will absorb the rich broth as it cooks. While that’s cooking, you can go on to the next step…
We like to serve The Hoppin’ with some sort of hearty greens: kale, mustard, turnip, collards. Not only delicious, they are part of the lore: chopped up, those greens resemble folding money–a significant piece of the Hoppin’ John road to prosperity.
This year I was drawn to the great ceremonial fans of collards, lovely dark green leaves with a vivid network of white veins. I enjoy the earthy bitterness of greens, but like to have that bitter edge balanced with a little acid, sweet, and heat. Many recipes call for adding sugar to the braise, also vinegar. I resisted that, and wanted to try something new. In my research, I came across a few recipes that used tomatoes, and that seemed to be an interesting direction for me to follow.
And, very lucky!
I discovered that making a braising base with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and coriander accomplished that desired balance without using that white devil, sugar. The tomato’s sweet yet acidic nature took the place of both sugar and vinegar. It caramelized and coated the collards in the braise. Coriander provided depth and heat.
The collards’ thick leaves have a natural resiliency, yet cook to tenderness. I think that you’ll enjoy their toothsome bite. Right now, they are my favorite greens. On this first day of 2011 I may not be ready to make grand resolutions, but I’m excited to begin the year pairing something tried-and-true with something new!
Here’s to a year of creativity and prosperity—in whatever forms it manifests.
2 cups fresh Black Eyed Peas (1 cup dried, soaked, and rinsed)
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 large Onion, chopped
Red Pepper Flakes
6 cups Vegetable Broth, or Water (or combination)
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Black Pepper
Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional)
1 cup Jasmine Rice
In a large pot, sautÃ© onions and garlic in olive oil. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. When translucent, add black-eyed peas. Stir well, allowing the peas to become coated with the seasoned oil. Add vegetable broth (and/or water) and 2 bay leaves. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Cover with tight-fitting lid and let the peas simmer until almost done (45 minutes for fresh peas, about 2 hours for dried/soaked peas) Test the peas–the skins should remain intact, but the interiors should be somewhat creamy.
Stir in rice and cover. Simmer until rice has absorbed the liquid, and is cooked–about 20-25 minutes. Fluff the Hoppin’ John with a fork. Taste for salt.
Serve up in a bowl, alongside greens. Pass the Louisiana Hot Sauce, for a little extra ping!
Makes 4-6 servings
COLLARDS BRAISED WITH TOMATOES, GARLIC, AND CORIANDER
1 large bunch fresh Collards, washed well, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 can chopped Tomatoes and juice
1 medium Onion, diced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 t. Coriander
Red Pepper Flakes
In a deep pot on medium heat, add olive oil and sautÃ© onions and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and juice. Season with salt, red pepper flakes, and coriander. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, then stir in collards, a handful at a time. Stir to coat the leaves with the tomato braise, and keep adding greens until all are in the pot. They will begin to collapse. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and allow the greens to braise for 15-20 minutes.
With optimism and goodwill, a HAPPY 2011 from Nancy
Good Food Matters