Hoppin’ John 2011

Hoppin' New Year!

This has been an unusual New Years Day for us. We usually don’t go out and then stay out on New Years Eve, but last night we found ourselves at a kick-ass house party that kept us out until 3AM. I don’t know how much sparkling wine we drank, but let’s just say it was a lot. When we got back to the apartment, we felt a bit peckish. Our first meal of the new year consisted of a much-loved standby, soft scrambled eggs with cheese and crispy prosciutto. We ate the eggs with a day old baguette remnant that we sliced into rounds and toasted. Not a bad beginning to a new year.

Our day got off to a bit of a slow start. We figured we likely missed people’s attention for Hoppin’ John recipes by the time we got around to cooking ours, but decided in the end to get this up to get a good start on this year’s writing as well. Hoppin’ John is a perfect, classic New Years dish, loaded with rich wonderful flavors and crazy nutritious. We ended up using refrigerated, Melissa’s pre-cooked black eyed peas we picked up at Andronico’s. They were the only option as the grocery had no dried peas and we forgot to pick some up earlier in the week. It turns out the grocery peas were pretty tasty so no regrets on this year’s shortcut.

We served the Hoppin’ John over jasmine rice and sautéed chard greens that were bright with the taste of rice vinegar and red chili flakes. At the table, the plate got an extra dusting of fresh ground black pepper and a dash or three of Tabasco. The smoky kielbasa coupled with the floral scent of the rice makes for a heady, aromatherapeutic experience. While not too hot, the jalapeno adds just a touch of extra warmth. This is the kind of dish we should all be eating more often.

Sauté of Chard

1 bunch chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, rough chop
pinch red pepper flakes
splash of rice vinegar
salt and pepper

Remove the stems from the chard leaves. Put the leaves aside. Cut the stems into a medium dice. In a sauté pan over medium heat add the olive oil and garlic cook for 30 to 1 minute. Add the chard stems, red pepper flakes and a small pinch of salt sauté for 2-3 minutes or until slightly soften. Roll the reserved leaves together in a cigar shape and cut the chard into inch wide ribbons. Add the leaves to the sauté pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If the pan is starting to dry out add a tablespoon of water and cover for 2-3 minutes, or until the leaves are tender. Before serving add a splash of rice vinegar.

Hoppin’ John

2 table spoons olive oil
6 oz. kielbasa sausage, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 bay leaf
pinch of dry thyme
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups precooked black eyed peas

In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, cook kielbasa in oil over medium heat until just slightly browned. Add everything but the chicken stock and black eyed peas to the pot with the kielbasa and sautée until vegetables soften, approximately 5 – 10 minutes. Add stock and peas and bring the pot to a low simmer. Cook, covered, for approximately 10 minutes or until the peas are tender. Discard bay leaf and serve over prepared jasmine rice with sauté of chard.

Cheese Rind Soup

Parmesan Cheese Rind Soup

Let’s assume that if you’re reading our blog you’re a foodie, right? Which means that you don’t have a can of Kraft Parmesan cheese in the refrigerator and that you most likely have a wedge of Grana Padano, or another type of parmesan cheese, that you use on a regular basis. And if you don’t know the difference it’s time that you do a bit of homework on the world of cheeses and visit your nearest cheese shop, or at least go online and do some research. Cheese should never come in a can, and don’t get us started on Cheeze Whiz. If you have a can of that crap in your fridge you have some serious food hang-ups and there’s probably nothing we can do to help you. So stop reading and just leave, just kidding. But seriously, get up from your computer and get rid of that can of Cheeze Whiz now.

We purchase Grana Padano from Costco, and while it is a large wedge it also lasts us for months. The best way we have found to store it is in a plastic bag (we are looking for an alternative, but as of today, it’s the best solution), within a plastic box (again, looking for an alternative) in the fridge. The plastic box has become our cheese drawer. It allows moisture to remain at a minimum while also keeping the cheeses fresh, and since Grana Padano is in the hard cheese category you’ll want minimal moisture. We use the cheese with anything from pastas, soups, breads, sandwiches, and anything that parmesan cheese is used for you can use Grana Padano. It has a nutty, sharp flavor that intensifies any dish.

When we get down to the rinds, something most people would just throw away, we freeze them and use them for soup stock. The flavor is so intense and wonderful and the soup is so rich that all you need is a small cup to be satisfied, although you’ll be tempted to eat a large bowl. The cost of the soup is also so economical that it literally costs less than a can of Campbell’s soup to make. If you have a pressure cooker it will take very little time to create. If you don’t have one you can use canned beans or soak dried beans overnight but it will take a lot more time, and the flavors won’t be the same.

Beans and Herbs in the pot

Cheese Rind Soup Recipe

2 cups dried Navy beans (picked over for small stones)

2 bay leaves

Sage & Thyme bundle

2-3 garlic cloves

½ – 1 pound Grana Padano cheese rinds (or other hard cheese rinds)

1 pound Kale, Chard, Spinach, or other leafy greens

Add the dried navy beans, garlic, bay leaves, sage and thyme to the pressure cooker, with about six cups water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 12-15 minutes. The beans will not be fully cooked. Reduce pressure and add the cheese rinds. Bring back to a boil and pressure cook for another 10-15 minutes. Reduce pressure again and remove the cheese rinds. The rinds will be hot so take caution when removing. Chop the rinds into small pieces and add them back to the soup. Add the greens and bring to boil and then pressure cook again for about 5-7 minutes. The cheese should mostly be melted but there may be small pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste. The cheese will already add a lot of salt so take caution not to add too much. Make sure to stir after each reduction of the pressure to assure that the cheese does not stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Serve with a drizzle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil. You can also add croutons or serve with crackers. For a spicy kick add your favorite Tabasco or hot sauce.