Friday, December 28, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea Soup – good luck food for the New Year

All around the world people eat certain foods on New Years that they believe will bring them good luck for the new year. I grew up in the Deep South and we believed that certain food was black-eyed peas. The peas look like little coins when cooked, so they are thought to symbolize wealth. They also swell when cooked, another sign of prosperity.

I alternate between serving black-eyed pea soup and southern caviar for New Years. Today I’ve chosen black-eyed pea soup because a little cold front has dipped its way south and there’s a bit of a chill in Florida. This soup is fantastic with southern style cornbread (meaning not the sweet cornbread), crusty bread, or an old appetizer favorite of ours - sausage cheese balls. Sausage cheese balls have been around for a long time, are very easy to make, and men go crazy for them. Make a lot because they go fast. My friend Lynn at Happier than a Pig in Mud’s recipe is very similar to mine and here’s a link to her recipe. To serve the soup to a crowd, I use coffee mugs in lieu of bowls and pass the sausage cheese balls separately.

Southern “caviar,” also known as Texas or Longhorn caviar, is made using black-eyed peas rather than fish eggs. It’s a spicy, very colorful salad with black-eyed peas, tomatoes, hot peppers, and southwestern spices that can be used as a dip with chips. If you are a frequent reader, you might remember my recipe, link here.

We rarely go out to a restaurant for New Year Eve and chose to either entertain at home or go to a friend’s house nearby. This year we’ll join friends at our condo’s pool house late in the evening for a little get-together, drink some champagne, and watch the fireworks in downtown from our view across the Caloosahatchee River. Everyone brings something to share and I’m planning on taking a big bowl of my southern caviar, or if it’s cool, this black-eyed pea soup.

What are your plans for New Years Eve? Do you go out? Or do you entertain at home? Or do you do what we’ve done occasionally, which is to share a bottle of champagne and ring in the New Year at home all by ourselves.

Black-Eyed Pea Soup
From My Carolina Kitchen – serves 6

12 oz package black-eyed peas
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
2 peeled carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme or herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon tomato paste - see cook's notes
8 oz tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
7 cups water, or a combination of low sodium, low fat beef broth and water - see cook's notes
Worcestershire sauce, optional
Sour cream for garnish
Optional other garnishes include chopped green scallions, small chunks of sautéed ham, chopped cilantro, seeded & chopped jalapeno peppers

Soak peas overnight in a large stock pot with plenty of water to cover. Drain, rinse, and put back into the stock pot with the beef broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

While the peas are coming to a boil, sauté the vegetables and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive in a non-stick skillet until softened and beginning to caramelize. Stir frequently. When browned, sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the dried herbs and stir. Then add the tablespoon of tomato paste, stir to incorporate it into the vegetables, and let it brown a moment or two, then add the sautéed vegetables to the peas.

When peas come to a boil, simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Add more liquid if necessary. Before serving, taste for salt, add if necessary, and discard bay leaves. If you want a touch more flavor, add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Garnish as desired.

Cook's notes: The tomato paste is used to further caramelize the vegetables and the paste should brown a little. For a less “soupy” soup, try 6 cups of liquid and add more liquid if needed.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Meakin and I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy 2013.  
See you next year. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday wishes from our house to yours

Both of these cards have been holiday favorites of mine for several years. I hope you’ll indulge me in showing them once again.

This Christmas card with a cow is from a painting by Tim Knepp titled “Ho, Ho, Holstein.” I couldn’t resist it. It just looked so “North Carolinian” with the cow in the snow in front of a red barn. Here in the mountains, farms with cows and red barns are still the norm. Every day farmers can be seen driving their tractors along on our winding roads to bring bales of hay to their cows.

This photo of a mountain stone barn decked out for the holidays with its wreath of greenery, bale of hay, and the horse in the background is also typical of the laid-back style of the mountains of western North Carolina.

Holiday wishes from our house to yours -

Merry Christmas

Joyeux Noël

Felix Navidad

Froehliche Weihnachten

Buone Feste Natalizie

Happy Hanukkah

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pumpkin Yogurt with Granola – an easy “no recipe required” breakfast

This is a super easy breakfast that comes together quickly and doesn’t require a recipe. When we have house guests, some days we prepare elaborate breakfasts and leisurely sit around and drink coffee and visit. Other days everyone is in a hurry to go somewhere and I need something easy.

Enter pumpkin yogurt with granola. It needs no recipe - just mix and taste as you go. Place plain yogurt (low fat is fine & I substituted Greek yogurt) and canned pumpkin in a bowl and sprinkle with a dash of ground cinnamon. Stir, then drizzle with a little maple syrup, or another sweetener of your choice, such as honey or agave syrup. Taste and add more yogurt or pumpkin if you like. Place in an individual bowl and top with some granola, a few fresh berries, and breakfast is served.

I wish I could take credit for this, but the recipe first caught my eye on Kitchen Daily and is from Eating Made Easy. Give this pumpkin yogurt a try the next time you are in a hurry and want something a little different.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Clever Chicks at the Chicken Chick, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chicken Marbella recreated into cocktail food for a party buffet

Through the years I’ve made Chicken Marbella many times for dinner parties and it’s always a crowd pleaser. With its irresistible and alluring flavors, the chicken with pieces of dark fruit, green olives and capers scattered over, napped with a slightly sweet and savory sauce, the inevitable question poised at the dinner table is always, “What IS this? It’s fantastic.”

Well, start with lots of garlic, vinegar, oregano, brown sugar, wine, capers and briny green olives, dried prunes, or plums as they are now called, and marinate with chicken overnight. Bake in the oven and it couldn’t be an easier dish to prepare. It practically makes itself. It’s perfect served hot, at room temperature, or cold. Could you ask for anything more?

Chicken Marbella was one of the most popular recipes ever to come from the wildly successful Silver Palate Cookbook, which recently published its 25 anniversary edition. The original recipe called for cut up chicken, but in today’s world, if I were making it for a dinner party, I would probably use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or cut in half bone-in chicken breasts. If you're serving it for a dinner party, it is excellent over couscous or rice with baby English peas. A nice accompaniment is an French fresh orange salad, link to recipe here.

But herein is our dilemma. We needed a dish to take to our condo’s Christmas party at the pool the other night and it needed to be a dish that people would be able to serve themselves in small portions, hold up well on a buffet, and allow to be eaten with one of those pitiful plastic forks they invariably give you as these kinds of events. Thus the reincarnation of Chicken Marbella that I present today. Sliced chicken breasts seemed like the perfect solution and it was. Everyone raved about it, as what always happens when you serve Chicken Marbella. Even 25 years since The Silver Palate first published this recipe, there are still those among us who have never, ever tasted Chicken Marbella and some of them were at this party. There’s no shame in that. It's fun to introduce new people to Chicken Marbella. But their first reaction is still the same as it’s always been – “What IS this? It’s fantastic.”

Make people happy - serve this at your next buffet. Nothing could be easier or more of a “people pleaser” than the intriguing and exotic Chicken Marbella. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love this dish and it always distinguishes itself among the other buffet offerings “the very best of the best.”

Chicken Marbella recreated into cocktail food for a party buffet
Adapted From The Silver Palate Cookbook

6 large plump boneless skinless chicken breasts halves
½ head of garlic, peeled & finely pureed
¼ cup dried oregano
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pitted dried prunes or dried plums as they are now called, bite size preferred, or large ones cut in bite size pieces
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
½ cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

In a large bowl combine chicken, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers & juice and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around the chicken. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when it registers 160 degrees F on an oven thermometer.

Remove the chicken breasts and slice into serving pieces. Transfer sliced chicken, and with a slotted spoon, transfer prunes, olives and capers over chicken to a serving platter. Discard the bay leaves. Moisten the chicken with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauce boat.

Good served hot, at room temperature, or cold. To serve cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over chicken.

Notes: Don’t skip the overnight marinating; it’s essential for flavor. If in a hurry, marinate at least 4 hours. To turn back into the original recipe, use two whole chickens cut into serving pieces, or quartered, or any combination of chicken parts, including halved breasts or all thighs. Either version is good hot, cold or room temperature.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter Salad with Roasted Squash, Potatoes, & Pomegranate Seeds over Arugula

Summer is not the only time to enjoy salads. Take for instance this winter salad with roasted squash and potatoes, garnished with feta cheese and pomegranate seeds. I think it looks very “holiday-ish” – the feta cheese resembling fallen snow, the pomegranate seeds bright red jewels, the roasted squash and potatoes golden gifts, and the arugula green tree branches.

You might recognize this salad. It’s all over Pinterest, although that’s not where I originally saw it. I first discovered it on Eat Boutique, a fantastic blog and an inspiration of diverse food ideas. Eat Boutique showed some of their favorite cold weather salads and this was one of them. The salad came from The Year in Food where they adapted it from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food. Pop over and see their incredible photos of the salad here and you’ll know why everyone loved it on Pinterest. They used delicata squash, which I could not find, so I substituted acorn squash.

It is a superb salad in every respect. First, it’s pretty. But more importantly, it is full of flavor. I had never eaten pomegranate seeds. Frankly they looked like too much work to me, opening the pomegranate, getting the juices all over me and making a mess in the process. But I happened upon a jar of pomegranate seeds at Walmart of all places and was very pleased.  The pomegranate seeds make this salad. They have a fruity crunch that I had not imagined. I thought the saltiness in the feta and the rich peppery taste of in the arugula were a nice contrast to the slight sweetness of the squash and crispy roasted potatoes always make anything better. This is one of the best winter salads I’ve ever eaten. Highly, highly recommended.

So on the day when you’ve had your fill of Christmas cookies or office parties, treat yourself to a nice healthy winter salad. This would also make a great meatless Monday dish.

Winter Salad with Roasted Squash, Potatoes, & Pomegranate Seeds
Adapted slightly From The Year in Food – serves 4 to 6

1.5 pounds small to medium potatoes (the recipe calls for fingerlings)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium acorn squash, or delicata squash if you can find it
8 ounces baby arugula, also known as rocket or roquette
Seeds from one pomegranate, about 1 cup
1 cup crumbled feta or top quality Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice potatoes lengthwise in halves or quarters depending on size. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with some salt. Toss to coat. Roast until tender and browned, about 20-25 minutes, turning once.

While the potatoes roast, prepare the squash. Peel the squash, then slice in half lengthwise, and remove seeds and membrane. Slice into thin half moons, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Arrange on another rimmed baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets for the squash), drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.

Remove potatoes from the oven and set aside. Add the squash to the oven, sprinkle with some salt, and roast until tender and just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Prepare the vinaigrette. In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, add all of the ingredients and shake to combine.

In a large salad bowl, combine the squash and the potatoes. Drizzle with about half the vinaigrette. Toss to combine. Add the arugula, half the pomegranate seeds and half of the cheese. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently toss. Add more vinaigrette if needed. (I did not use all of it.) Top with the remaining cheese and pomegranate seeds. Serve.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone.