I like holidays with food. I think it's the combination of a special tradition with eating. In fact, I think we need more. We should pull out our calendars and find every obscure observance and start some kind of delicious tradition. Stephen Foster Memorial Day is coming up next week, folks, and I think we should honor him with buckwheat cake. Maybe we'll skip Groundhog Day.
On New Year's, you're supposed to eat black-eyed peas for luck and collard greens for money. During my childhood, my parents grew turnip greens, and so I could have all I wanted during the summer. I didn't want any of them no matter what time of year it was, because they were nasty. No one liked them but my dad, and I wonder if that was maybe the way he cooked them. My dad is a real fine fellow and knows a lot of corny jokes, but his cooking led me to believe that I did not like some foods that later turned out to be delicious. His turnip greens made the whole house smell terrible. I think he just boiled them. Turns out, the secret to greens is boiling them with a ham hock. Ham hocks are available at your local grocery store, and they are magical, even if I don't really know what they are.
Last year, for New Year's, I just made Hoppin' John and greens, which required two magical hocks of ham. This year, I was lazy and wanted one dish. I also had a ton of leftover Christmas ham to make use of. So I looked around for a soup recipe.
Over the years that I've been learning to cook, I've discovered that I am not the kind of person who goes into the kitchen, throws things together and comes out later with a new recipe. I have a friend who is constantly broke, and so she is forced to take everything in her sparse pantry and make magic happen. I rely on having a pantry fully stocked with staples and an internet full of recipes. Maybe someday I will have the skill and confidence to just make something up. And then I'll come out with a cookbook. I'll call it I Totally Just Made This Stuff Up!
One thing I have figured out how to do is to combine multiple recipes. When I decide I want to make a thing, I go looking for a bunch of recipes. I generally have an idea of how I want it to be, and I skip most things that have a lot of convenience foods in them. I like to taste the inconvenience. It's sort of like going on Allrecipes and then picking out the various suggestions you find in the comments under each recipe.
Anyhow, I did that with our New Year's dish, and it turned out really well. I wrote everything down as I was figuring out the ultimate recipe, just so I could have the piece of paper in the kitchen as I cooked. But then I was so impressed with the results that I was glad I had it on paper, ready to put into my recipe binder. Josh also heartily approved, eating 2 bowls that day, though maybe that was just for the extra luck.
New Year's Soup
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 c ham, diced
2 c dried black eyed peas, soaked for at least 8 hours and then drained and rinsed OR 1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
6 c broth (I used turkey stock)
1 T basil
1 T oregano
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, chopped
salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste
1 T apple cider vinegar
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, and ham. Cook until onion is translucent.
If using uncooked peas: Add black eyed peas, broth, basil and oregano. Bring to a boil. Skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, about 45 minutes.
If using canned peas: Add broth, basil and oregano. Bring to a boil.
Mix in collards, carrots, and potatoes, and simmer until tender.
If using canned peas, add them now. Add vinegar and salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Eat on New Year's for luck and money. Results not guaranteed, but the soup's pretty good.