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Collards Stuffed with Hoppin’ John

It’s only fitting that my first post of 2010 should be about Hoppin’ John. A Southern tradition, this tasty rice and black-eyed peas combo served with collard greens has been a New Year’s Day fixture in my house since the 1980s, when I lived in Charleston, S.C. What’s not to love about a dish that is delicious, cheap, easy to make, and also holds the promise of good luck in the coming year?

This year I made my usual Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day (you can find the recipe here), but I also wanted to break from tradition, so, the next day, I stuffed several steamed collard leaves with some of the Hoppin’ John — kind of like stuffed cabbage, Southern-style.

In anticipation, I had made a double batch of Hoppin’ John and bought extra collards, reserving several of the cooked leaves to use for stuffing. Since the ingredients were prepared ahead of time, it was a simple matter to stuff and roll the collards. I arranged them in a shallow baking dish and poured a small amount of vegetable broth over them. I then covered them with foil and baked them until hot.

Served with vegan sour cream, Tabasco, and a side of applesauce, the stuffed leaves have a wonderful flavor and they also make a gorgeous presentation. Those beautiful flat leaves are so much easier to work with than cabbage leaves — and much prettier too. I think these Hoppin’ John Stuffed Collards will be in a regular menu rotation throughout 2010.

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