Aunt Suzy says . . .

Years ago I learned about securing good fortune and prosperity for the coming year by what you eat on New Year’s Day – specifically black-eyed peas, cooked greens and cornbread.  This good luck menu is from the Southern U. S., although I have learned from Wikipedia that eating black-eyed peas for New Year’s can be traced back to ancient times as a Jewish tradition on Rosh Hashana.  The significance of each item as I learned it, although there are many interpretations – all for good luck or good fortune:

Black-eyed peas – one day of good luck for each pea eaten

Collard greens – green for money/prosperity

Corn bread – for gold in your pocket

Some people add pork to the menu for living “high off the hog”.  Following is a recipe for the way we make black-eyed peas for New Year’s.  For some reason, we always do a vegetarian version for this occasion.  We also have recipes on the blog for black-eyeds with sausagegreens and corn bread.  Happy New Year and wishing you much luck and prosperity!

New Year’s Day Black-eyed Peas

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 small or 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced

1 small or 1/2 large green bell pepper, diced

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups dried black-eyed peas

4-5 cups liquid*

2 bay leaves

1-2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 chipote pepper in adobo, rinsed and minced (optional)

1-2 dried red pepper pods (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.

Lightly coat a large dutch oven or soup pot with the vegetable oil (I use canola).  Saute the onion and bell peppers for about 3 minutes until beginning to soften.  Add the garlic and saute another minute until fragrant. If using the chipotle pepper (for smokiness and heat), add at the same time as the garlic.

Add the *liquid.  For vegetarian use water, water with mock chicken broth powder or Better than Boullion (our favorite) or vegetable broth.  Or you can use chicken stock for the liquid.  Rinse and pick over the black-eyed peas and then add to the pot.  Add the bay leaves, thyme and red pepper pods, if using, then salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 45 -75 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on many things.  Check after 30 minutes to test degree of doneness, then every 15 minutes thereafter. They should be firm and creamy but not falling apart.  Serve on their own or over rice.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

I did not grow up eating black-eyed peas, but am glad to have learned about them from friends who grew up in the South!  Black-eyed peas are packed with nutrients – high in potassium, iron, protein and fiber – and as an added bonus they have a delicious taste and meaty texture.  “Peas” is a misnomer since they are actually legumes related to the mung bean.   They are a Southern staple, but you don’t need to be from the South to enjoy them.  Many Southern-style recipes use smoked ham-hocks, a ham bone or  piece of ham to add flavor.  This one gets its smokiness from Andouille sausage.

I find it interesting that these legumes are thought to have originated in Asia (although they likely came to the U.S. from Africa).  In our local Vietnamese restaurants they are offered in sweet drinks and desserts – quite a departure from the savory dishes we’re used to!

Cook’s notes: The specified amounts in this recipe make a lot – a little under 3 quarts of finished product.  I make this large amount because they freeze really well, and I always feel that if I’m going to go to the effort, I might as well make a bunch.  You can cut these quantities in half to serve 6-8 people as a side dish, 4-6 people as a main dish served with rice.  This is great with dried peas, but if you can find fresh, even better.  I used chicken Andouille sausage, which is readily available at co-ops in the Twin Cities from Larry Schultz Organic Farm and at Trader Joe’s elsewhere.

4 cups dried black-eyed peas (unless you are lucky enough to have fresh, then use 7-8 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, diced

2 celery stalks, sliced

2-4 cloves garlic (depending on size and your taste)

2 andouille sausages, split and sliced into half-moons

6-7 cups chicken stock or water (stock recommended but not essential)

3-4 red chile peppers or 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional – the sausage has a little heat already)

3-4 sprigs thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

3-4 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

If using dried black-eyed peas, pick out the ones that don’t look so good and rinse.  Place in a large pot and add water to cover the peas by 3 inches.  Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.  Let sit for 15 minutes then drain and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a large dutch oven or soup pot with the olive oil.  Bring heat to medium-high.  Add the onions and celery and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the sausage and saute another 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute another  minute or two until fragrant.  Add half the liquid and then the peas.  Add more liquid until the peas are just covered.  Add the chile peppers, thyme and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer covered for about 60 minutes if using dried peas. Start checking doneness after 30 minutes to prevent overcooking.  If you want less liquid when done, cook the last 15 minutes with the lid off.  For fresh peas, the cooking time will be 30-45 minutes.

Before serving, remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and chile peppers. Serve in bowls as a side or over rice as a main dish.  Always good with cornbread!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This recipe was given to my guy Randy by an Ojibway woman he used to work with at the Linden Hills Co-op.  She told him this method of combining roasted vegetables with wild rice is traditional, but that she had been creative with the types of vegetables and herbs.  Regardless, we love this dish!  We recommend that you use hand-harvested naturally growing wild rice vs. cultivated.  It’s a little like the difference between those hard pink tomatoes found in stores in the winter and those that are home-grown in the summertime.  If you don’t have easy access to true wild rice, you can order it from Scenic Waters Wild Rice – we buy from them at our farmer’s market.

This is a delicious vegetarian main dish or a wonderful side to roast chicken or salmon.  Since this seems like something that would have been served at harvest, we featured it in our Thanksgiving dinner along with roast turkey breast and my latest obsession, Persimmon Salad.  We tried a dry brining recipe from this November’s Bon Appetit for our turkey.  We liked this approach, but Randy felt that the wet brining we’ve used over the years yielded a better result.  You can see that Buddy the cat does not have a preference for one brining method over another!

The Rice

Cook 1 Cup Wild Rice according to package directions or you can choose one of these methods.  Cook the roasted vegetables while the rice is cooking – you’ll want them to finish roughly at the same time.

The Roasted Vegetables

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Scatter 4  chopped and seeded Roma tomatoes in a 9 x 12 pan.  You can also do this in a large cookie sheet or the bottom of your stove’s broiler pan. We recommend lining these latter two with foil.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the tomatoes.

Dice the following, in about ½ inch slices and cubes depending on the vegetable and place in a large bowl.  The 1 cup amount should be used as a starting point.  Our quantities typically vary from 1-2 cups depending on the original size of the vegetables we use.

1 cup carrots                                                 1 cup onion

1 cup celery                                                   1 cup fennel bulb

1 cup yukon gold potatoes and/or 1 cup sweet potato

1 cup zucchini

Toss with the vegetables:

4 minced garlic cloves                           1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup Olive Oil                                       1 teaspoon pepper

Arrange vegetables over the top of the tomatoes and cover with foil.

Roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees in the top 1/3 of the oven.  After 20 minutes, stir the vegetables and roast for 10-15 minutes more to desired doneness. If the mixture is a little soupy, roast uncovered.  If it’s a little dry, put the foil back on for the final 10-15 minutes.  You want the finished product to not be too wet nor too dry.

When done to your liking, remove the vegetables from the oven and stir in 1/2-1 cup fresh chopped cilantro.  You can substitute parsley if you don’t like cilantro.  Stir the rice into the vegetables and place in a serving dish or platter.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons dill. Enjoy!

Cooks Notes: If you use sweet potato, make sure it’s the one with the light tan skin/light yellow flesh.  The relatives of this sold as garnet or jewel yams with orange flesh are too wet.  Mushrooms are a nice addition to the roasted vegetables for an earthier flavor – try it both ways.  When selecting fennel, it should have bright green feathery tops and no brown spots on the bulbs.

Braised Hearty Greens 2 Ways

November 19, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

We loved cooked bitter greens here on the Savory side of Sweet & Savory Kitchens!  Randy grew up with them in Texas – his grandmother always made turnip greens.  I learned about “greens” and how to cook them in Chicago from my friends whose families were from the South.   Some people like to make a pot of greens with one type; I typically make a mix, although if I cook only one, it will be collard greens.  From left to right in the picture are mustard, collard and turnip greens.  The Hmong farmers in Minnesota  (immigrants from Laos after the Vietnamese War) grow the most astounding greens!  Greens are a big part of  Hmong cooking, even though they are of different types than those brought from Africa.  In the South, greens are usually cooked with a smoked or cured meat.  I carry on that tradition, but I also make a vegetarian version of greens which just might be overtaking the ones with meat as our favorite!   And either way, they absolutely must be served with cornbread.  There might be other things on the table, but Southern greens without cornbread . . . well, they just aren’t greens!

This is probably one of those things like chili – there are as many ways to cook greens as there are greens’ cooks!  Here’s my take, but this is definitely something you can modify to your taste.

The Pot Liquor

The basis for really delicious greens is the savory liquid in which they are cooked.  Start with 1 medium onion diced, and 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced.  Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add a thin coating of vegetable oil and heat until it shimmers.  Add the onion and saute till soft, then add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes until fragrant.  If making with meat, add 1 andouille sausage, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half-moons, at the same time as the onion.  If making vegetarian, add 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, rinsed, seeded and sliced (shown) at the same time as the garlic.  In both ways, add about 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for 30 minutes to concentrate the flavors.  You can do this a day or two ahead of cooking the greens.

Preparing and Cooking the Greens

You will want 3 or 4 (or more!) bunches (called “messes” in the South) of greens.  I always start with collard greens as the base and add either mustard or turnip greens (or both!).  Place them in a sink-full of water, then drain.  Do this 1-2 more times to get all the dirt and grit off the greens.  Once you’ve washed the greens, remove the leafy part from the tough stems and discard the stems.  I do this by tearing the greens by hand into about 2-inch X 2-inch pieces.   Many people cut the stems out and slice the leaves, as is described in Francis Lam’s recent article on Sauteed Greens.  Place the greens into the pot with the pot liquor at a boil.  You will have to do this a little at a time because your pot probably won’t hold the entire amount at once.  They will cook down in a minute or two when you can add more greens.

Once you’ve added all your greens and they have cooked down, add a little more water.   I always throw in a couple of dried chile peppers, unless I’ve used the chipotles.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 – 90 minutes to desired doneness.  We do not like our greens boiled down to a mush, so I start tasting at the 45 minute mark.  Check every so often to see if you need to add more water – nothing worse than burnt greens!  If the turnips greens have some nice little turnips on the ends, I’ll peel and dice those and add to the pot with turnip greens.

Cooked greens are something that freeze well.  We always make many batches in the fall when greens are at their peak and then freeze to enjoy all winter.  Pictured are two packs ready for the freezer – the one on the left is vegetarian with turnips and the one on the right is made with andouille sausage.  It’s wonderful when New Year’s Day rolls around and we don’t actually have to cook greens from scratch!

Persimmon & Feta Salad

November 17, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

It is so fun to eat something never tried before and find out that it’s delicious!  I’m speaking of persimmons, a fruit I’ve seen in the markets over the years.  I have always passed them by, not knowing how to use them.  My local co-op was demoing this salad last week – one bite and I was instantly sold.   For this recipe you will use Fuyu persimmons, which are hard (sort of like an apple).  I learned the other commonly sold persimmons in the U.S. are Hachiyas, which are considered ripe when fully soft and used mainly in baking/cooking.  Who would have known?!!  This salad is very refreshing.  I recommend it with something rich or hearty – we served it alongside chili and it provided a delightful contrast.

1-2 Fuyu persimmons, peeled, cored and sliced

3 ounces crumbled feta cheese

5 ounces baby arugula or spinach

1/4 cup pinenuts, sliced almonds or walnuts, toasted (optional)

5 ounces proscuitto, cut into strips (optional)

1/4 cup EV olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon (Meyer if available)

1/2 teaspoon honey (less or more to taste)

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice and honey together until slightly emulsified.  Toss the greens with a little of the dressing.  Place the sliced persimmon and proscuitto (if using) on top of the dressed greens and drizzle with more dressing.  Serve on small plates or salad bowls.  Top with feta crumbles and nuts (if using). 

Cooks Notes:  I read that Fuyu persimmons do not need to be peeled, but I found the peel tough so I recommend removing it.  I have not made this with nuts or proscuitto, although I think adding these would be good, if heartier.  The honey really adds to the overall integration of the flavor in this dish.  I usually prefer salads with a very light application of dressing, but I think using a little more dressing is the right approach for this yummy salad (as you can see by the shiny spinach leaves!).

Smothered Jerusalem Artichokes

November 16, 2010

Aunt Suzy says

I recently saw Jerusalem Artichokes, aka sunchokes, at our main Minneapolis Farmer’s Market and remembered that Randy had made a delicious dish of these stewed with tomatoes.  I imagine this is probably the last weekend that we would see locally grown produce so I grabbed them up along with a number of bunches of hearty greens for a cooking extravangaza weekend.   Here’s why I think this will be the last of locally grown produce – this happened the following weekend! (and yes, folks, this is a color picture!)

 I came home with the Jerusalem Artichokes and asked Randy about the dish he had made a few years ago.  He finally remembered that it was from an old Marcella Hazan cookbook.   I fell in love this cookbook, which I have never perused before.  Each recipe has a big descriptive paragraph in front of it where she talks about the ingredients, the history of the dish, her feelings about it.  Sometimes she gets off on tangents, like in this recipe she talks about how the method in this dish represents the underpinnings of the Italian approach to fresh cooking and then launches off to talk about how many restaurants take shortcuts now, much to the detriment of quality dining.  It’s sort of like a blog in print.  I think the book is totally cute also, hearkening back to paperbacks of the 70’s (it was published in 1978).

The recipe is called “smothered” rather than stewed and it is a snap to make once you have peeled the sunchokes, which is not the easiest thing to do!  But it’s worth it.  Find out more about Jerusalem Artichokes here.  We served this dish with salmon and green rice, which Margaux has mentioned a couple of times in other posts.  One of us will make it and put up a post about it soon – it’s a favorite!

Jerusalem Artichokes - Fuseau

2 pounds (or so) Jerusalem Artichokes, peeled and diced in 1/2″ cubes (about 3-4 cups)

2 Tablespoons EV Olive Oil

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, inced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, including juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Place a medium pot over medium high heat and add the oil.  When shimmering, add the onion.  Immediately turn the heat down to medium and saute until soft and starting to turn golden.  Add the garlic and stir for about a minute until it becomes fragrant.  Add the parsley and stir one more minute.  Add the tomatoes and then the Jerusalem Artichokes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes until tender.  This can be made ahead and reheated.  But just once says Marcella or you will become like those restaurants who don’t care about quality anymore :-).

Aunt Suzy says . . .

When fall rolls around and the markets are filled with winter squash, I can’t wait to make this dish.   It’s an amalgamation of two recipes, one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (one of my very favorite cookbooks!) and one from Rodale’s Basic Natural Foods.   The aromatic rice is filled with goodies and flavor and melds perfectly with the creamy earthiness of the squash.  This works really well as a vegetarian main dish or as a side to chicken or pork.   The earthy creaminess of a Pinot Blanc white wine pairs beautifully.

Margaux says . . .

We make this dish every year since we first got the recipe from Aunt Suzy in our very first “dinner in a box” gift.  It makes a really great dish for company, especially for us because many of our friends are vegetarian.  We usually serve it as a main course with an elegant salad, or sometimes with a flavorful pureed soup.

The Squash

2-4 Acorn or Sweet Dumpling Squash

Cut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds.  Lay cut side down in a foil-lined roasting pan or cookie sheet and bake 40 minutes at 375 degrees.  I find it’s helpful to loosen the squash with a spatula about half-way through the baking so that they don’t stick to the foil.



 The Stuffing

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 small onion, minced

1 small green pepper, minced

½ cup pine nuts

½ tsp each paprika and thyme

¼ tsp each cinnamon, cumin and oregano

1/3 cup currants

1 cup white or brown rice

2 cups water

Juice of one lemon

1- 15 ounce can of chickpeas

Salt to taste

Sauté onions, green peppers and pine nuts in oil until soft, 5-8 minutes.  Add currants and all herbs/spices and sauté for 1 minute, then add the rice and saute for a few more minutes.

Add water, lemon juice and salt. Cook, covered, till liquid is absorbed (20 min for white rice; 45 for brown).   Let stand for 10 minutes, then fold in chick peas.


Mound stuffing into squash.

Bake upright, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Here’s a pic of the finished meal – squash, baked chicken breast and the tiniest, cutest, most delicious brussel sprouts ever!

COOKS’ NOTES:  The rice ends up a little on the wet side which is important so that it doesn’t dry out in the final baking step.  You can also serve this rice as a side dish without the squash.  In this case maybe back off ¼ to ½ cup on the liquid.  Steps 1 and 2 can be done up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated.  Let the squash and rice come to room temperature before finishing.

In either case, you are likely to have stuffing left over.  I had 3 squash – 6 halves to be filled – and still had enough of the rice left over to use as a stuffing in two small-ish green peppers for a second meal, as follows:

Stuffed Green Peppers

Add the following to the stuffing:

1/3-1/2 pound ground lamb (beef works also)

2 peeled, seeded and chopped Roma tomatoes

Cut two red or green peppers in half lengthwise and take out seeds and ribs.  Mound the stuffing in the peppers and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.

Delicious with oven roasted potatoes and an herbal red Cotes du Rhone!

Aunt Suzy Says

This is another great recipe from Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s cookbook The Italian Country Table.  It’s a variation on Panzanella – tomato/bread salad – with the addition of green beans.  It’s beautiful as well as delicious, especially when made with red and yellow tomatoes (or a variety of heirloom tomato colors).   This salad is fast and easy, taking advantage of the current bounty available from gardens and farmers’ markets.  Serve with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese for a main dish salad.

3/4-1 pound fresh green beans

3 to 4 3/4-inch-thick slices of coarse-grain bread

1 large clove of garlic, cut in half

4 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks

1-2 tablespoons basil, sliced

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Splash of red wine vinegar

Salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare the green beans by snapping off the ends and snapping into 2-inch lengths.  Cook the beans by either plunging into boiling water or steaming.  Either method should take about 4-5 minutes to cook to perfection – not too crisp, not too limp.   When finished cooking, plunge into cold water.  Drain and cool, then pat dry in a towel.

Rub a salad bowl with half the garlic.  Toast the bread or, if you’ve got a grill going, grill it.   Rub the bread on both sides with the garlic.  Tear into 1-inch pieces.  Toss the cooled green beans, the tomatoes, bread pieces and basil together in the prepared bowl.

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar together.  Add salt and pepper.  Pour over the salad and toss to fully blend all ingredients.

Notes on the ingredients:  Sour-dough based bread is delicious with this salad.  Trader Joe’s has a sour-dough seeded bread that I like to use when I can get it.  This is one of those recipes that you can experiment with amounts of various ingredients, more or less, to your taste.

Aunt Suzy says

If you like celery, olive oil and a salad with crunch, this is a salad for you!  When we purchased shallots at the Madison, Wisconsin farmer’s market recently to make Braised Chicken in Shallot-Mustard Sauce, I remembered this recipe.  I was delighted to see celery grown by one of my favorite local vendors, Loon Organics at our farmers market the following weekend.  When I brought the celery home, Randy was doubtful because we have had bad past experiences with locally grown celery sold at our co-op.  But this looked good so I perservered, and we loved the resulting salad.  The celery was much more flavorful than that grown in California, not to mention that it is local and organic.  (Celery is near the top of the Dirty Dozen list of pesticide laden produce only second to apples.)  Even if you don’t think you would like an entire salad featuring celery, I encourage you to try this refreshing option.

12 celery ribs, thinly sliced crosswise

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 shallot, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 small head of red or green leaf lettuce, leaves torn into bit-size pieces

One 4-ounce piece of pecorino romano cheese

Place the sliced celery into a medium bowl filled with water and ice and let soak for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 until very crisp.  Meanwhile, whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together in a medium bowl.  Add the chopped shallot and season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with 3 tablespoons of the dressing.  Transfer to a platter or individual serving plates.  Drain the sliced celery from the ice-water bath and dry thoroughly in a towel or with paper towels.  Add the celery to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon, scatter the celery over the lettuce.  Shred the cheese on the large holes of a box grater and scatter over the salad.  Drizzle all with the dressing that remains from the celery mixture.  Note:  we did not use as much cheese as called for, thinking less is more in this case!

Aunt Suzy says

The heat that has been plaguing the rest of the country has finally caught up with us here in the Upper Midwest.   On Sunday it was mid-90’s with bright sun and humidity, so Randy and I decided to make a variety of salads for our main meal.  We split the cooking, which allowed us time to play a cribbage game – one of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon.

 These salads are either no-cook or minimal cooking, like sauteeing a few items.  Two of the salads are from a previous post – Tuna with Roasted Peppers and Pine Nuts, which includes a link to the Morrocan-inspired Carrot Salad with Feta from Smitten Kitchen.  (The carrot salad uses Harissa.)  I am excited to have recently purchsed a new-fangled Julienne Peeler, which I think makes for a crunchier and lighter carrot salad than a box grater.   We also made White Bean and Arugula salad from Mark Bittman’s great 101 Salads N Y Times article from last summer.  (If you need salad ideas, check this out!)  And lastly, we made one of our favorites, Zucchini Carpaccio with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan.  All made more delicious with the refreshing French rose wine we served wtih the meal.  So if it’s hot where you live, stay cool with one or more of these delicious salads!