Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Day Belated

I'm not sure when it started but I always eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day. Sure, it's an age old Southern tradition but honestly I don't remember my family growing up eating black-eyed peas on New Year's or any other day. I'm not sure where the tradition came from or when I started but I do know -- though I am hardly what anyone would call superstitious -- I never start a year without cowpeas, usually mixed up with rice and salt pork for hoppin' John. I do love hoppin' John . . . maybe that's why I started, a simple convenient excuse to eat something delicious.
In any case though I was traveling New Year's day I wanted to start 2013 with my beloved black-eyed peas. James and I postponed our holiday dinner until today. Instead of my usual rice and cowpeas dish I opted for a most un-Southern Greek style vegetarian stew flavored with tomato paste, onions, garlic, chili peppers, celery and carrots.
The chopped vegetables sauté in an ample amount of olive oil until soft -- about 5 minutes. Next I added in half a jar of homemade tomato sauce (I happened to have some in the fridge), tomato paste dissolved in water, chopped garlic, fresh black-eyed peas, and water to cover. I brought the mixture to a boil and allowed the stew to simmer, covered for 30 minutes. After tasting for seasoning and adding S&P the stew simmered covered for another 20 minutes. To finish our New Year's dish I tossed in two small handfuls of fregola, the toasted Sardinian pasta (but any small shape -- orzo maybe -- would have been fine), The stew cooked for another 10 minutes or so on medium high heat until the beans and the pasta were tender and ready to serve.
Feta would have been ideal to top this vegetarian stew -- but the next best thing -- at least in our fridge, was Ricotta Salata, a delicious aged salty version the cheese most of us know as a creamy filling for lasagna.
I suppose that Southern New Year's Day is never too far away -- alongside James' healthful tomatoey stew -- pan fried slices of crispy, fatty, salty, ham. A great way to start.
Happy New Year one and all.

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