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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lunch on New Year's Day-Black-Eyed Peas, Collard Greens and Cornbread

Not one to play around with luck or lack thereof , my lunch today was black-eyed peas with bacon, spicy fresh collard greens and a big hunk of cornbread made with organic stone ground white cornmeal,  part of a CSA box my daughter gets once a week. According to Southern folklore, eating black eyed peas will bring luck and prosperity throughout the year. To triple the chances of good luck, I served collard greens which represents paper money (green) and cornbread representing gold. Whether or not, I become prosperous, time will tell, but being a daughter of the South, my meal brought back many memories of growing up in a small farm town with a mother and a grandmother, both expert cooks who didn't consider black eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread haute cuisine, but nutritious, inexpensive and delicious family food.

Collard greens are available year round, but are best from November to April and are said to be more flavorful after a frost. A cruciferous vegetable, collards are considered one of the world's healthiest foods. When buying fresh collards, choose those with bright crisp green leaves. When possible, buy from a nearby organic farm for maximum freshness. 

Braised Collard Greens

2 pounds collard greens, rinsed, stemmed, leaves rolled and sliced into strips
4 slices bacon
1 onion, diced
1 bottle (12 ounce) beer
12 ounces chicken broth, homemade or canned
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
a few dashes red wine vinegar

In a large saucepan, cook bacon slices until slightly crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Dice and reserve. Add onion to pan and saute until softened. Add beer and chicken broth to pan, stirring to bring up bits of bacon fond. Add collards and bacon; bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes, or until tender and to your taste. Add a few dashes red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.

Black-eyed Peas with Bacon
Recipe Adapted From Hoppin' John

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
4-5 slices bacon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced small
1/2 green pepper, diced small
2 quarts chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste (do not add salt until peas are cooked)

Wash and sort dried peas, discarding blemished ones. Soak peas overnight in hot tap water, using three times as much water as dried peas. Render bacon in heavy saucepan. Add garlic, onion, carrot and green pepper and sauté until tender. Add drained peas, chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer until tender, careful not to stir too much or beans will be mushy. Add salt  and pepper to taste. Makes large pot of peas. 
Easy Southern Cornbread

1-1/2 cups white or yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup, plus extra buttermilk
1-1/2 bacon grease or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 410° F. Pour bacon grease or vegetable oil into a small (8-inch) iron frying pan. Place in hot oven for about ten minutes. Meanwhile,whisk together dry ingredients. Whisk eggs into buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients along with the melted butter. You may need more buttermilk to achieve a batter like consistency. Protecting hands, carefully remove frying pan from oven. Place on heatproof surface. Pour batter into hot pan. Place in oven. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and tests done. Makes 

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