Monday, January 04, 2010

Food For Luck

It's the first Monday of the New Year, which for me marks a return to my desk, my notes, my list of things to do. In some ways it feels like every other Monday, but it isn't -- it is the first Monday of 2010. It's time to increase productivity and devotion, time to make those phone calls I've been meaning to make for months. Time to schedule a dentist appointment, service the car, plan a trip.

Thank goodness for leftovers for lunch, and lucky ones at that. My parents are from the South and I grew up eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck. It is a tradition I have tried to carry into adulthood, and this year I was determined to make a huge pot of beans -- people, I need the luck.

I soaked the beans on New Year's Eve and on New Year's Day, the first thing I did was slice one half of a big yellow onion, mince four garlic cloves, and heat some olive oil. Once the oil was hot I threw in the onion and the garlic, and when the onion gleamed translucent, two slices of Applewood smoked bacon I had chopped into thick chunks. Once all this was smelling really good, I added my peas-- a full cup -- and enough water to cover them. Within the hour they were done. I finished them with lots of salt, pepper, and a few splashes of apple cider vinegar for a little tang. There were enough peas to fill a two pint tupperware. I am hoping if I eat them all I will have good luck well into the new year.

Black eyed peas pair perfectly with collard greens -- is this because so many people vow to eat more greens in the new year? Or because after nearly two weeks of over eating and over drinking our bodies are practically screaming for green?

I think the answers are yes and yes. To make my greens I chopped the other half of my yellow onion, along with most of a small fennel bulb. Again I heated olive oil, then added the onion and fennel once the oil was slick and hot. After cooking till translucent I added water -- about three cups worth -- and simmered it for thirty minutes into a fragrant broth. Next I added one huge bunch of chopped collard greens -- remove the stems, please -- and cooked them down into a big green mess.

But I wasn't finished yet. Oh no. Normally I would eat this meal with a big buttery hunk of cornbread. But the oven is broken. These greens would have plump little cornmeal dumplings. Borrowing an Edna Lewis recipe I combined:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk

Next you whisk together flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then blend in butter well with your fingertips. Stir in milk until just combined. Let dough stand 5 minutes.With wet hands, roll rounded tablespoons of dough into balls. Gently place dumplings on top of greens. Cook, covered and undisturbed, over low heat until greens are very tender and silky and dumplings are puffed and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Yum, yum, yum. Eat your peas and greens and dumplings all crowded together in a bowl. They like to be cozy. This is a delicious way to enter a new year and very comforting (and dare I say healthy?) leftovers to take you into a new week. Good luck, all.

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