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A New Year’s Tradition

I never thought of myself as superstitious, but I guess I must be. When I moved to Charleston, South Carolina in the 1980s, I discovered that Southerners eat a special dish on New Years Day for good luck in the coming year. Hoppin’ John is made with black-eyed peas and rice and served with collard greens. Ever since my first encounter with this delicious tradition, I’ve made it every year without fail, and I’m always glad I do. It’s a great-tasting, comfort-food meal that always tastes “just right” on New Years Day after what is usually a week of rich holiday indulgences. Although, when topped with vegan sour cream and generously doused with Tabasco, it tastes anything but repentant.

Sometimes, I cook the black-eyed peas from scratch and use fresh collards. Other times, when I’m too busy to cook, I make a quick version using canned black-eyed peas and frozen chopped collards. Either way, it makes a satisfying dinner and the leftovers are even better the next day.

The collard greens are traditionally served on the side, but I like to cook them, chop them, and stir them right into the Hoppin’ John. A splash of Liquid Smoke adds a nice smoky nuance. I serve my Hoppin’ John in bowls with the vegan sour cream and a bottle of Tabasco at the table so you can add as much of either or both as you like.

Here’s my quick and easy version for you to try — but don’t wait until next New Year’s Day. It’s good enough to eat any day of the year.

Hoppin’ John with Collards
Use fresh or frozen collard greens for this recipe. If unavailable, substitute kale or other dark greens.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 cup long-grain brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable broth
3 cups cooked or 2 (16-ounce) cans black-eyed peas
3 cups chopped cooked collard greens
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegan sour cream, to serve
Tabasco sauce, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and water or broth and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (the amount of salt needed depends on the saltiness of your broth or if you use water). Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
2. About 15 minutes into the cooking of the rice, stir in the black-eyed peas.
3. When the rice is cooked, stir in the cooked chopped collards, Liquid Smoke, and black pepper. Add more salt, if needed.
4. To serve, spoon into bowls and accompany with vegan sour cream and Tabasco sauce at the table.

Serves 4

When the Cupboard is Bare

I love the challenge of making a decent meal when there’s almost nothing in the cupboard and fridge. I was put to the test last night. I’ve been cooking like crazy lately, testing recipes for my fall 2009 book, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, and buying only the groceries I needed for each batch of testing. The previous day, I had tested the final recipe I had shopped for and just didn’t feel like going grocery shopping for another round. After spending the day at my computer yesterday, I was oblivious to the fact that the refrigerator and pantry were nearly empty. Then suddenly it was time for dinner. Fortunately, some lonely brown rice and canned beans were among the few remaining items in the pantry — a good start. But what about vegetables?

Even when I have a full larder, I often look to vegetables to inspire a meal, but the only vegetable I had in the house was a bag of frozen baby Brussels sprouts. I usually like to roast Brussels sprouts in a hot oven and spritz them with lemon juice. But for this meal, I decided to cook the tiny orbs the way I would broccoli rabe or escarole. After a quick blanching, I sliced them and sautéed them in garlic and olive oil until tender, sprinkled with basil, oregano, salt and pepper, and hot red pepper flakes. I then added capers, black olives, and cannellini beans and sautéed everything until hot. Served on a bed of brown rice, it turned out to be a satisfying and flavorful meal. Of course, now the cupboard REALLY is bare!