This has been a big month of burning sage, and vowing to distance from the news cycle. Except for the Bernie memes. Who can get enough of those adorable mittens paired with a dash of curmudgeon?
January has been a time of stoking winter’s hopeful spark// read: a blur of drinking too much wine while huddled next to the fireplace trying not to doom scroll virus variants. Lots of changes are on the horizon, and thankfully all of my frontline physician and elderly family members have been vaccinated. I was fascinated watching interviews on 60 Minutes with scientists from all over the world who truly defined teamwork and came together with fervor to create vaccines. I had always imagined that it was a big pharma race to “win,” but these scientists all wanted the win for humanity. So that is refreshing and inspiring.
While we wait our turns to get that poke of hope in the arm, I am trying to keep our bellies and bones warm with winter soups and stews.
As any Southerner worth her salt, I scoured the market for black-eyed peas to serve on New Year’s Day… to no avail. I did finally get my paws on some and made the best Hoppin’ John ever courtesy of this recipe by Atlanta chef Todd Richards. It was worth the wait, and hopefully the promise of good luck extends sort of like a “birthday month.”
Hoppin’ John with Turnips and Greens
Adapted from a recipe by Todd Richards, published in Food & Wine, January 2021
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
1 T vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut in 8 (1/2″) wedges
1 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper, divided
2 medium celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into small cubes
2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 dried bay leaves (fresh is great too)
2 T harissa paste
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t dried thyme, or 2 thyme sprigs
3-4 cups vegetable/ chicken stock
1 (about 1 1/2 lb.) smoked ham hock, optional (I used bits of leftover Christmas ham from the freezer)
8 oz. turnip greens or kale, (basically a bunch)
Cooked yellow or white rice
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Rinse black-eyed peas and discard any debris. Place peas in a large pot or bowl. Add cold water to cover; let soak at least 6 hours or up to 12 hours. Drain peas, and set aside.
Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add onion, turnips, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, 4-6 minutes. Add celery, diced jalapeños, garlic, bay leaves, harissa, smoked paprika, cumin, and thyme; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add peas, stock, ham (if using), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon of black pepper; bring to a simmer over medium high. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in turnip greens or kale until just wilted. Let stand 15 minutes.
Remove and discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs and ham hock, if using. Taste for salt. Serve over rice and top with scallions.
Winter vegetables can get a little beige and and boring, so I tend to gravitate towards colorful and spicy Mexican recipes this time of year. I have made dozens of pots of different pozoles, and this one is a keeper.
Liberally adapted from a recipe by Pati Jinich for Epicurious
12-14 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
2 poblano chiles, halved and seeded, then coarsely chopped
1 serrano/ jalapeño, coarsely chopped, optional
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds/ pepitas, toasted
1 cup cilantro, plus more for serving
1 cup parsley
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
5 cups vegetable/ chicken broth
1 t kosher salt
1 t dried Mexican or regular oregano
2 T vegetable/ olive oil
1/2 t black pepper
2, 15 oz. cans of white hominy, drained
1, 15 oz. can of cannellini or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, diced for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish
Combine tomatillos and garlic in a medium saucepan, pour water over to cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the tomatillos are mushy and soft, but not falling apart, about 10 minutes.
Transfer tomatillos, garlic, and 1 cup cooking liquid to a blender. Add poblano chiles, serrano/ jalapeño (if using), pumpkin seeds, 1 cup cilantro, parsley, white onion, 1 cup broth, and 1 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth; set aside. You may need to work in batches so your blender does not overflow/ explode!
Heat oil in a large pot over high. Once it’s hot, but not smoking, pour tomatillo puree into pot, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the puree thickens and darkens in color, about 10 minutes.
Add hominy, beans, and remaining 4 cups of broth to pot, stir to combine, and cook until flavors come together, about 15 minutes. Taste, and season with more salt if needed. Also, you can add more broth if you like your pozole more soupy.
Serve in bowls garnished with avocado, cilantro, and lime wedges. I also like to serve warmed corn tortillas alongside. A little tequila doesn’t hurt either. Voila.
I was about to hit send on this newsletter last night, until wait! I made this no fuss and flavorful skillet chili and wanted to share because it is the perfect weeknight supper, especially for this homesick Texan.
Adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark for NYTimes Cooking
For the Pickled Onions:
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Large pinch of kosher salt
Small pinch of sugar
For the Chili:
Olive/ grapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil, optional
1 bay leaf
1 chipotle pepper from a can, chopped (hack: I keep these frozen in trays and pop out one at a time when needed)
2, 15 oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1, 28 oz, can of diced tomatoes and their juices
Fresh cilantro, diced avocado, sour cream, grated cheese, and/ or lime for garnish, optional
Make the pickled onions: Squeeze lime juice into a bowl, add onion, salt, and sugar. Toss and let rest while you make the chili.
Prepare the chili:
Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add the oil. When hot, add the onion and red pepper and saute until until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, dried basil (if using), bay leaf, and chopped chipotle. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans and tomatoes and a few large pinches of salt and let simmer until the tomatoes break down, about 20 minutes.
Taste for seasoning. Serve with the picked onions and any of the garnishes you like. Tortilla chips make awesome spoons.
I am missing all of my friends, both close and not so much. I miss those casual interactions you have on a street corner and happenstance meetings while just hanging out having a drink at your favorite watering hole. ThisAtlantic article captures that longing perfectly.
Till we meet again… sending you warm wishes,
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