Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good Luck Black-Eyed Peas – January 29, 2012

I grew up in Alabama where we always had black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day.  I never, stopped to think, however, why black-eyed peas would be good luck.  So, I did a little research and found out that during the Civil War when people were starving in the South, they had to survive on what had always been considered scraps or animal feed in the past.  For the first time, they not only found themselves eating black-eyed peas and ham hock, but feeling “lucky” to have them in order to survive.  Some people even cook a dime in the pot for an extra boost of luck.  I figured this is the perfect meal then for my sight on making great food out of items headed for the trash.  I started by making the traditional version (recipe below), but then I needed a vegetarian recipe with black-eyed peas so all my friends could share in the luck.  I chose a black-eyed pea salad that can be eaten as a side, but is even better eaten with tortilla chips as a salsa.

Traditional Black-eyed Peas with Ham Hock

2 pounds dried black-eyed peas
8 ounces ham hocks
6 cups water
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. sugar
Salt, to taste

Pick over the peas and rinse well before soaking in cold water overnight. Place ham hocks and drained peas in a large pot with water to cover and bring to boil.  Add whole onion, crushed red pepper, sugar, and salt. Add more water if needed to cover peas. Cover tightly and simmer slowly two to three hours or until peas are tender. Serve with hot cooked rice and cornbread.  Serves eight. 

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

1 large diced tomato (or small can of diced tomato)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, canola oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Toss all together and let marinade for up to eight hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Do you have any traditional dishes you love to make that use items the poor could access even during hard times?  Please share!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thrift Week – January 22, 2012

Between 1916 and 1966, the United States celebrated a week-long event called Thrift Week.  It always started on Benjamin Franklin’s birthday, January 17th and the government used the week to promote smart consumerism and saving practices.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned,” so this seems a great week to begin my site with the first post and a great way to make use of things headed for the compost heap.

Vegetable Broth

One of my favorite ways to take advantage of vegetable scraps is to create a tasty vegetable broth.  My husband and I get a bi-weekly box of local and organic produce delivered to our house.  I find that since we both work long weeks with many additional evening activities, it is important to prep as many of the items from the box soon after they arrive.  I usually do this one weekend day after the box arrives.  I clean and prep salads, can tomatoes, pop and cook beans and onions, bake sweet potatoes and prepare soups and muffins to freeze in individual containers for weekly meals.  All the fresh scraps during the day are placed in a large pot and as it fills, I cover all the items with water and boil until the vegetables are cooked to mush.  

During the warm months, I add fresh herbs from my garden like basil, thyme, chives and parsley to the pot.   Also, I like salt and pepper to taste, but it isn’t necessary.  In the winter I add dried herbs if I have not brought any herbs indoors.  I always add a clove or two of garlic (they can go in skins and all) and any shallot or onion left in the fridge as well.  The best broths are made from a variety of vegetables (and some times even fruits – apples are great) where no one taste is too pervasive.  You can throw in seeds, skins and any unused parts; just make sure you have cleaned the vegetable items to avoid dirt.  After I finish and cool the broth, I pour it through a sieve and the mushy vegetables make the very best feed for our compost worms.  I pour the broth into muffin tins and freeze making ½ cup portions that I pop out by running warm water over the bottom of the frozen tins.  I keep the ½ cup portions in labeled and dated freezer bags to pull out as needed for recipes.