Winter Eat


 

Black-eyed Peas

Black-eyed Peas

My mother is a gen-u-wine Southerner, so every year on New Year’s Day we’d eat black-eyed peas to ensure a prosperous year. I never really thought much about it, but it occurred to me recently that I’ve never heard anyone else mention this tradition. Turns out it’s one of those regional things that really hasn’t spread outside The South, which I think makes it even cooler. This year I made the dish based on Emeril’s Food Network recipe, and it turned out fabulous! Black-eyed peas are traditionally cooked with a few spices and ham, sometimes called “Hoppin’ John,” but we never used that name.

Emeril’s recipe was not only super easy to prepare, it also has a great combination of spices that bring out the sometimes bland flavor of the peas. I thought two bay leaves would be excessive, but they were right on balance. The only thing I changed is the meat; I couldn’t find a good ham hock so I used turkey ham, which has a great smokey flavor and is even a bit better for you. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly, and all the times were right on to end up with a perfect consistency. The tricky part of making black-eyed peas is getting them to be smooth, but not mushy. You have to remove them from heat at exactly the right moment when they are just starting burst, otherwise you end up with a huge mass of bean mush. This recipe worked well to prevent that.

I know you’re supposed to eat this on New Year’s Day, but I served it to friends a few weeks ago and it was a hit. Which says a lot, considering that these peas are not usually the star of the show.

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Dinner on the Fly

Dinner on the Fly

I belong to a food co-op that provides a huge amount of produce every week, all organic and in-season, and mostly locally grown. Although this is a wonderful way to get lots of fresh food into the kitchen, sometimes it leaves me with an excessive amount of one thing or another that I don’t know what to do with. Right now, it’s winter squash. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love squash, and it’s great that hearty winter veggies stay fresh for a looooong time. But after eating squash as a side dish, in stir-fry concoctions, making gratin, and trying to arrange the pile of squash on my table as a centerpiece, I was running out of ideas. But a girl’s gotta eat, so I opened the fridge and threw something together. In the end, I made a baked mac and cheese dish that was made a little more grown up with the addition of sweet dumpling squash, gruyere cheese (which was left over from the gratin), and cubed smoked turkey. Click through for the full recipe.

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Over the weekend I decided to put all my extra winter squash to good use and make this Winter Squash Gratin recipe from the Times. I used Delicata Squash, which has a flavor described as a combination of sweet potato and corn. The recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds, so I used three smallish delicatas. I also swapped out the parsley and sage for thyme, since that’s what I had in the kitchen. I really liked the flavor mixed with Gruyère cheese, so I’d call the improvisation a success. 

delicataI’d give this recipe 3 out of 5 wooden spoons, since the time needed to prepare it isn’t necessarily worth the finished product. If I’m still left with a table overflowing with winter squash in a few weeks, I’d consider it again, though. Click through for the full rundown. (more…)