Black-Eyed Pea New Year’s Stew

black eyed pea new years stew

The day before New Year’s Eve, my co-worker told me she had so much prep cooking to do that night. Not someone I had pegged to be a big cook, I asked what all she needed to do. She told me that every year she has a tradition of making black-eyed peas, greens, and noodles (from her Southern and Chinese heritage) for the new year. I love this idea of canonized end of the year traditions, but the furthest I ever get is rereading last year’s list of goals and usually rewriting many of the same ones. (“Restring guitar”, “get better at yoga”, and “think about grad school” have all graced each list from the past three years…) Inspired by her lead, I decided to play around with these simple ingredients.

black eyed pea new years stew

I’d heard of the black-eyed pea tradition before; supposedly it is lucky to eat them on New Year’s Day because the spotted peas look like coins (and who wouldn’t want a little more of that in the coming year). According to this article, looks like the Jews started this tradition over 1500 years ago, eating the peas on Rosh Hashanah. (Don’t know if I buy that, though.) It may have come to America in the early 1700s with the Sephardic Jews or (seemingly more likely) as part of the slave route; regardless, it has evolved into a classic Southern soul food tradition.

black eyed pea new years stew

I’ve also heard of noodles being lucky — I’ve repeatedly been tempted by the “longevity noodle” dish at Biang! that looks like a whole platter of noodles but is in fact just one very long one that comes with a pair of scissors. Long noodles represent a long life, as long as you slurp them up in one mouthful and don’t chop them off partway. Makes sense to start a new year with an ode to long life.

black eyed pea new years stew

And the greens I’m a little confused about. I think they also represent wealth (greens=the color of money?), but for me, they will represent a pledge to eat healthfully in the coming year. Combine these three together, and I give you… quick and simple black-eyed pea stew! Perfect for New Year’s, or really any time you need a quick meal. The peas are traditionally cooked with some sort of pig product; I added smoked paprika and liquid smoke to replicate some of that flavor. (Although Daniel did put bacon on top of his bowl and was pretty happy about it.) To be honest, we both enjoyed this more with rice, but if you want the lucky triple whammy, spaghetti away! Nothing like a symbolic meal to start this uncertain year off on the right foot.

black eyed pea new years stew

one year ago: …I was in Guatemala and didn’t update the blog, BUT let me take this moment to let you know I JUST updated my Recipes page! check it out! 
two years ago: Bengali egg curry 

Black-Eyed Pea New Year’s Stew

a Swanky original

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 bell pepper (preferably red but other colors work fine), chopped same size as onion
1 rib of celery, chopped same size as onion
1 jalapeño, some seeds removed, minced
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup veggie broth
1 can black-eyed peas (don’t toss the liquid!)
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional, but adds nice smokiness)
2-4 cups kale, ribs moved and torn into bite sized pieces
Fresh parsley
s&p

Heat olive oil in a medium large pot over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, celery, and jalapeño and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until veggies have softened and onion has become translucent. Add garlic, smoked paprika, thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and veggies are evenly coated in spice mixture.

Next, add in the chopped tomatoes and their juices, broth, black-eyed peas and the liquid in the can, and the liquid smoke, if using. Add a bunch of salt here too. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until peas soften and most of the liquid evaporates.

Right before serving, still with pot on medium, add in your kale and stir until it wilts, about 3-5 minutes. Serve with rice or spaghetti and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

black eyed pea new years stew

 

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Roasted Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

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This post sort of reminds me of those Italian cookies, “brutti ma buoni,” which translates to “ugly but good”. Not like I’ve ever tasted them, as they’re made entirely of ground nuts, but I’ve always liked saying the name to myself when my photography sloppily gets sacrificed and yet I still want to share a recipe. At the end of the day, you’re eating food, not gazing at it, right? And if those foodie Italians can do it, perche non io? (Also, these potatoes themselves are not brutti, it’s just my impatience with a camera makes them appear such. We’re not discussing split pea soup or anything today.)

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True story: We ate these sweet potatoes standing up at our countertop in roughly 2 minutes. We had tickets for a show starting at 7:30; the sweet potatoes came out of the oven at probably 7:20. Luckily, the theater is literally two blocks from our house. We threw all the toppings on, poured on excessive amounts of tahini sauce, took some harried pictures which mostly turned out blurry, and quite literally stuffed these in our faces. We arrived at 7:29, a bit breathless and with tickets extended to prove yes we did indeed belong here too. Despite the totally full house, they hadn’t given our seats away yet. Whew.

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Some words to the wise: a) put your sweet potatoes in the oven at least an hour before you want to eat, and b) when buying tickets online months in advance, it’s always a good idea to double check what time it actually starts sometime during said day. Also c) don’t expect to take beautiful photos when you have approximately 9 minutes to assemble food, document food, consume said food, and sprint two blocks.

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So although I suggest you sit down and enjoy these lovely, healthy taters&toppings as a proper meal, they can be consumed quite quickly, if that’s what is necessary. I make (and adore) each element of this recipe separately; it was only a matter of time before they all got combined into the perfect mouthful. Er, series of mouthfuls, if you have the time. #dontbelikeme. #bruttimabuoni:sweetpotatoedition

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one year ago: simple pasta with smoked scamorza and tomatoes << one of my most-read posts!

Roasted Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

a swanky original
Serves 3

3 sweet potatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed well, and dried off
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
some drizzles olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 big clove garlic, minced
2 cups kale, rinsed and in bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tahini
juice from half a lemon
parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt

Additional optional toppings: za’atar, hot sauce, Greek yogurt, pomegranate seeds

Sweet Potatoes: Preheat oven to 400F. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place directly on oven rack. Bake until easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on their size. Let cool slightly.

Chickpeas: On a rimmed baking tray, toss chickpeas with cumin, smoked paprika, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. Add to oven when there’s about 20 minutes left on the sweet potatoes. Chickpeas will be brown and satisfyingly crunchy when done.

Kale: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a big sauté pan. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add kale, a pinch of salt, and white wine vinegar. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until kale has turned bright green and wilted a bit. Remove from heat.

Tahini Sauce: Combine tahini, 2 tablespoons water, lemon juice, and a big pinch of salt. Mix until smooth.

To serve, cut sweet potatoes in half. Mash the flesh a bit. Spoon on kale, chickpeas, and tahini sauce. Top with parsley and any additional toppings as desired.

 

As “brutti” as it gets: #UglyFoodPics

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Mayan Quichon de Verduras, Take 1

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Our cooking classes at PLQ are taught by a friendly, explosive, and hilarious lady named Oti. She is friends with my host family, and has occasionally shown up at lunch time, bearing fruits or baked goods. She is well-liked by all, and, it seems to me, a bit of a gossipy yenta. She likes to tell stories in her incredibly fast Spanish, complete with imitations and reenactments. She turned to me after one of them and asked if I understood. (I had gotten maybe 30%.) She began the story again, in slower Spanish, but as the story progressed and she got excited, her Spanish continued to speed up. Maybe that time around I got 50%. Her upbeat attitude extends to her class, where she spends half an hour “while the chiles soak” telling us about her family drama and her visiting grandson and naughtily suggesting I need a Guatemalan boyfriend in addition to my American one. She’s an uplifting presence and I’m always glad when our paths cross.

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I’m daily thrilled by the generosity and kindness of the people I meet here. People are so willing to strike up a conversation! Yesterday, for example, I went on a trip to Laguna Chicabal — a sacred Mayan lake set in the crater of an old volcano. On the microbus on the way there, the guy next to us began to ask, in slow and measured Spanish, about where we were going, where we were staying, our jobs, language skills, etc. He was eager to figure out who the four gringa ladies in the back of the bus were and excited to tell us a bit about himself too. (I think he’s a traveling alternative medicine salesman who speaks Spanish and Mayan Mam but that job part was a bit tricky to understand.) Right before we got off, he asked if I had “the face” — we realized after a moment he meant FaceBOOK and wanted to be friends, but at that point it was too late to exchange any info (no sleep lost). I’ve had similar conversations with cafe employees, guys I’ve salsa danced with, and other people waiting for their tostadas at the stalls in the market. It’s a fun, informal way to practice Spanish, although in some cases I fear the conversation is initiated because they’re vying for that nonexistent, elusive position of Guatemalan boyfriend. Lo siento, amigos. 

IMG_3118IMG_3125The recipe below is written exactly how Oti (with our ample slicing and dicing assistance) made it for our graduation dinner last week. No tweaks or improvements. It was certainly tasty — the sauce was good enough to eat with a spoon and I had a moment of annoyance that there were so many vegetarians this week and so not enough for seconds. It’s deep and musky and chile-heavy, with a slight spiciness cut by the tomatoes. I love that this is an extremely old and simple(ish) Mayan recipe. People have been making some form of quichon, which is only found in Quetzaltenango (a brief internet search showed surprisingly little internet evidence of this dish) for centuries (albeit with chicken). But I have some ideas about how I’ll update this recipe to give it just a bit more varied flavor — the chiles really do dominate — roasting the veggies instead of boiling, adding more garlic and perhaps a second type of chile, thickening the stew with something other than white bread mush, adding something green. But alas these will have to wait until the day of kitchen return. In the meantime, it will be vale la pena (worth it) to bring the smells and techniques of the Mayans into your kitchen, although I’m pretty sure they didn’t process white bread in a blender in the pre-Spaniard period. See Notes below recipe for ingredient tips.

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one year ago: Buttermints and Mushroom, Olive, and Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

more from Oti and Guatemala: Rellenitos de Plátano

Traditional Mayan Quichon de Verduras

feeds 4-6

4 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
6 small potatoes, peeled and in bite-sized chunks
1 or 2 guisquil (aka chayote – or use sweet potato or any other squash)
*5 dried paso chiles (aka ancho chile) – can find in a Mexican grocery store
6 cloves of garlic
1 large or 2 small onions, cut in strips
12 small plum tomatoes
*6 pimientos gordos (aka big pepper) 
*8-ish slices of pan frances
salt

Boil the carrots, potatoes, and guisquil in ample water until tender. Strain and reserve the water. Now you have veggie broth!

Meanwhile, toast up your spices. We used a comal, or a thin tortilla grill that you put right on the flame of your stove, but a regular cast-iron or ribbed skillet would work just as well (and you could probably roast them in the oven too). Heat the pan up nice and high, and then toast the chiles, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and black pepper until they have char marks on all sides. Turn frequently. Depending on the size of your pan, do this in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. The black pepper balls only need a minute or so.

Next, soak the chiles in plenty of warm water until soft and easily pliable, about ten minutes. Remove and discard the seeds and inner membranes of the chiles. Tear each chile into 2-4 pieces. Meanwhile, tear bread into small pieces; put in a bowl with a bit of warm water. Mush with your fingers until it reaches a paste-like consistency. Only use enough water to make it like — the only comparison I can think of is matzah ball soup dough. Not so wet.

Next, we blend! First add to your blender the chiles and a bit of the veg broth from earlier. Blend until totally smooth. Add to boiled vegetables. Next, add the grilled onions, tomatoes, garlic, and black pepper with more broth. Blend until smooth and add to veggies. Finally, add the watery bread paste and blend til smooth, adding to veggies when done. Add more salt than you think you need and stir well.

Return vegetables to heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken. Feel free to add more bread or more broth to reach your desired consistency. Our final product was like a thick Indian-style curry. Serve with tortillas and/or rice.

*Ingredients Notes

Chile paso is more commonly called the ancho chile in other parts of Central America. They’re dark brown in color and fairly large — more wide than skinny and long. As Oti says, “Solo pica un poco” — they’re a pretty mild pepper with a very small kick at the end. They’re commonly used throughout Mexico and could be easily found at a Mexican or international market.

Pimiento Gordo is a type of black pepper. These black orbs are slightly larger than our regular pimiento negro (normal black pepper) and have a slightly different flavor. I asked Oti if you could use regular black pepper and she basically said absolutely not, they give a completely different flavor to the final dish. But I don’t think the Mayans would care too much if you gave it a try…

Re pan francés: I was looking through a typical Guatemalan cookbook and was surprised many recipes included pan frances as a thickener for sauces. And indeed, Oti used a whole bag of day-old stale bread between this and the meaty-version (if you’re curious — replace the veggies with boiled chicken parts and voila). The breads she used were about three inches long and an inch wide, and very airy. This was not a dense delicious baguette, it was more akin to Wonder Bread. The bread lends no flavor to the dish, only texture. I’m going to experiment with other options when I have my kitchen back — I think corn starch, peanut butter, or a simple roux could all do the trick without all the unnecessary white bread starches.

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From the veggie-loaded rice we made — no recipe, just posting cause I’m impressed by our dicing skills with that sorry excuse for a knife.