Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year

Is it really 2011? It seems every year passes more quickly than the previous one, and 2010 was no exception. Although the past year was full of adventure and change for me, I'm glad for the start of a new year. It is the perfect time to reflect and make the changes that have been on a back burner for weeks, or months. I have several resolutions this year, as every year, though I don't hold myself to a rigid standard of success: if I improve in the areas that I set goals in I'll be happy. And if the same things are on my list next year, and the following year, I'll just keep trying until I'm closer to where I want to be.

For instance, the past few years I've vowed to only eat meat that is pasture-raised. I'm still not 100% successful, and honestly, probably never will be. But I can improve by shopping at local farms and farmers markets as often as possible. Yes, it is more expensive, and yes, it is less convenient, but the finished product is always of a higher quality, and I prefer quality over quantity, so I will continue to work on this in 2011. (If you have questions about why one would take this on, please watch Food Inc.) Another resolution that I will take on again in 2011 is to quit hitting the snooze button. I think I've been resolving to break this habit for a decade or more, but another fresh start means another opportunity to succeed. I know my husband is really hoping that this is the year.

To bring some luck for 2011, and for success on my resolutions, I started the year off with Black Eyed Peas, which traditionally are believed to bring luck in a new year. My mother-in-law makes a delicious black eyed pea dip with lots of cheese that is served with corn chips, but since my husband and I are resolving, as I'm sure many of you are, to be healthier this year than last, I decided we'd start off with some lighter luck (plus, I forgot to call her for the recipe...add keeping in touch to the list of resolutions!).

This is sort of an Italian riff on Hoppin' John, a Southern dish that is made on New Year's Day and contains some combination of greens, bacon, cheese, peppers, and onions, but Black Eyed Peas are always the star. I referenced a few recipes but didn't shop for all of the ingredients, so I just used what we had on hand. I am happy to say I won't change a thing when I make this in 2012. I know that's one resolution that won't be hard to keep!

Hoppin' Giovanni

Make this dish on New Year's Day for good luck all year.

1 - 11oz container fresh Black Eyed Peas, or 1 can rinsed and drained
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 ounce prosciutto, diced (about one slice cut 1/4" thick)
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 ounces cheddar and/or parmesan cheese, grated, divided
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups unsalted water to a boil. Add the black eyed peas, and return to a boil. Lower heat so the beans are cooking at a low boil, and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, until tender. If you're using canned beans, skip this step, and just rinse the beans well.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and add the prosciutto. Cook for a few minutes, until browned, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan, adding more olive oil if it is very dry. Saute until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are softened. Season with a little salt and pepper. Stir in the garlic, and cook for about a minute, stirring so it doesn't burn. Stir in the spinach, and cook until it is green and mixed into the vegetables. Deglaze with the white wine, and cook until it is reduced.

Once the beans are cooked, drain them and add them to the skillet. Stir in the stock, then lower the heat and cook for a few minutes until the stock has reduced a bit. Slowly stir in about 2/3 of the grated cheese. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with the remaining cheese. Have a very lucky year!