Living

New twist on New Year's traditions

2009 is almost behind us, and because of the year's economic woes, many folks are glad to see it go while hoping for better luck in 2010.

Why not hedge your bets on New Year's Day with the traditional Southern good-luck meal of collard greens and black-eyed peas? It certainly can't hurt to partake in a little superstition.

Carry on the tradition Friday by trying a twist on the standard hoppin' John and plain greens with our recipes for two appetizers perfect for a New Year's drop-in - a New Year's soup and a pot pie that combines all the requisite lucky foods.

Tradition has it that collard greens represent folding money, so you'll have prosperity in the New Year, and black-eyed peas stand for coins or just pure luck.

If nothing else, this meal is easy on the budget and actually good for you. Just go easy on the salt pork or ham, and you've got a low-fat, high-fiber meal.

The black-eyed pea is one of a dozen or more varieties of field peas, which also include crowder peas, cowpeas and lady peas. A staple in the Southern diet for more than 300 years, the black-eyed pea originated in Asia and is thought to have been introduced to the United States through the African slave trade.

Hoppin' John, a dish made with black-eyed peas and rice, is one of the more popular ways of serving black-eyed peas, but they also can be used in salads and soups or simply cooked as a side dish.

In "The African-American Kitchen: Cooking from Our Heritage," Angela Shelf Medearis writes that some say hoppin' John got its name from the tradition of having the children of the family hop around the table once for luck before eating the dish.

Consumer demand for collard greens peaks at the end of December as Southerners prepare for Jan. 1, the biggest collard-eating day of the year.

MORE GOOD LUCK

Two other good-luck foods that might be part of a New Year's Day meal are mustard and benne seeds. Mustard brings purity, and sesame (benne) seeds encourage steadfastness in the new year.

Farmers often placed a few benne seeds, also introduced to the South by Africans, at the end of each row of cotton to help yield a good crop, Marti Chitwood writes in "Southern-Style Diabetic Cooking."

In some parts of the South, including the South Carolina Lowcountry, a sesame seed is still known as benne, which was its name in the African (Bantu) dialect, writes Damon Lee Fowler in "Classical Southern Cooking."

If eating all good-luck foods isn't enough to guarantee a happy new year, take out some extra insurance with a champagne toast on New Year's Eve.

This tradition originated in France, where many years ago, it was the custom to place toasted bread in a glass of champagne. The glass was then passed around among friends. The person who got the last sip of champagne - the toast - was considered lucky.

Dixie caviar cups

15 appetizer servings

1 (15.8-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn

1 medium-size plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 medium-size green bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 small sweet onion, finely chopped

2 green onions, sliced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (or 2 1/4 teaspoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup Italian dressing

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

30 Belgian endive leaves (about 3 bunches)

1/2 cup sour cream, optional

- Combine first 9 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Seal bag and chill 24 hours; drain.

- Spoon mixture into a bowl; stir in cilantro. Spoon about 1 rounded tablespoon of mixture into each endive leaf. Add a dollop of sour cream, if desired. (For a more casual presentation, place black-eyed pea mixture in a bowl, garnish with sour cream, and serve with scoop-style tortilla chips.)

- From Southern Living

Collard green and artichoke dip

8 to 10 servings

4 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 pint heavy whipping cream

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 lemon, juiced

Dash hot sauce

Dash Worcestershire sauce

2 (10-ounce) boxes collard greens, thawed and drained

1 (14-ounce) jar artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute until it reaches a golden blond color. Slowly whisk in the cream and turn up heat until it thickens.

- Add the cheeses and stir until melted. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Fold in the collard greens and artichoke hearts.

- Place mixture in a casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve with baked pita chips.

- From The Neelys, "Down Home with the Neelys" on the Food Network

New Year's soup

8 servings

1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth (fat-free)

2 (14.5-ounce) cans vegetable broth

2 medium carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1/2 cup diced onion

1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

6 ounces ham, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, undrained

3/4 cup rice

8-10 ounces frozen chopped collard greens, thawed, drained

- Combine chicken broth, vegetable broth, carrots, celery and onion in a large pot. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes. Add seasonings.

- Meanwhile, saute ham in a nonstick skillet.

- Add ham, black-eyed peas, rice and greens to broth and vegetables. Simmer 20-30 minutes more, until rice is cooked.

- Carol J.G. Ward

Ham-and-greens pot pie with cornbread crust

8 to 10 servings

4 cups chopped cooked ham

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth

1 (16-ounce) package frozen seasoning blend*

1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped collard greens

1 (16-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Cornbread crust batter:

1 1/2 cups white cornmeal mix

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

- Saute ham in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add chicken broth, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until broth begins to thicken.

- Bring mixture to a boil, and add seasoning blend and collard greens; return to a boil and cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Stir in black-eyed peas and crushed red pepper; spoon hot mixture into a lightly greased 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Pour cornbread crust batter (see recipe below) evenly over hot filling mixture.

- Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown and set.

- To make the cornbread crust batter: Combine first 3 ingredients; make a well in the center of mixture. Add eggs and buttermilk to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moistened.

- Note: Onion, bell pepper and celery in the frozen vegetable section of most grocery stores.

- Southern Living

Benne seed cookies

4 dozen

1 egg white

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter, melted and at room temperature

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest

1/4 cup browned benne seeds

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

- Whip egg white in an electric mixer on high until foamy. Add sugar and vanilla and stir by hand until well blended. Stir in butter, salt, flour and orange zest, and mix until well-blended. Stir in browned sesame seeds.

Drop mixture on baking sheets by half teaspoonfuls (about the size of a nickel). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove sheet of foil with cookies on it and cool on foil.

Note: If reusing cookie sheets, let them cool completely before placing a new batch of cookies on them.

- From "Entertaining At The College Of Charleston"

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