Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Dinner

Dinner for New Year's Day -- less bound to family tradition than Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, but an opportunity to delve into cultural heritage cooking -- more "roots" or folk cuisine.  I like to immerse myself in the folk essence of a place -- what makes THIS place unique or interesting.  Food is one of those pathways into the essence of place.  Here in the south the New Year tradition involves pork (a favored meat of farming cultures through most of the world), blackeyed peas, rice, and greens.  But the way these elements can be prepared and varied and mixed up is infinite.  It's a very fine line between Hoppin' John, Jambalaya, Jump-up Rice, Jolof Rice (there even appears to be a visual linguistic connection between the names).  So I pull out several cookbooks to concoct my own version.  These are three that I used:  Desperation Dinners (the name says it all -- quick get to the point easy to use recipes, and it has one for an easy Jambalaya);  Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (great vegetarian cookbook, every recipe a winner, and it has a recipe for blackeye peas called Cajun Skillet Beans; and Kwanzaa, An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking, which is full of wonderful recipes of the African Diaspora lands.
So I take elements from several recipes, using both blackeye peas and dried purple hull peas from the garden, peppers and tomatoes frozen from summer harvest, lots of herbs both fresh and dried, along with onions, celery, some shrimp and some smoked sausage.

Some greens (I think it is some malabar spinach and some swiss chard) from the freezer, cooked kind of low and slow with some onion, garlic, a bit of hot sauce to finish off and a chopped hard boiled egg on top.

Plated up with the rice to catch the juices, a salad with orange slices and pomegranate and a home made roll.  Yeah, it was pretty tasty.

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