black-eyed peas with kale, dijon mustard & thoughts on traditions


My mother was raised in Texas, and her parents were from Oklahoma and Louisiana, so  in keeping Southern traditions every New Years dinner my mother served black-eyed peas and ham. Black-eyed peas in the South are traditionally eaten at the start of the year to bring good luck in wealth; adding greens doubles down on wealth (and nutrients too.) I’ve adapted this recipe to include fresh kale (collard greens are the classic Southern side), and also some heat from the lemon drop pepper and texture from the fresh celery.

Throughout my childhood each holiday included food traditions– some which I enjoyed (especially the boxes of Van Duyn’s dark chocolates each December when we put up the Christmas tree!) and some not so much (the gamey lamb with sugary green mint jelly at Easter.)  Beneath this New Year’s tradition though the messaging I remember learning from my young mother includes “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” and “There’s never enough.” She was widowed at a very young age which fairly shook her confidence when she had two small children and no career plans other than being a wife and at-home mother. Yet we certainly never went hungry or lacked for anything we needed.

As an adult I’ve reflected on what I learned from my mother’s actions and words, incuding how food traditions are “baked in” to most of our lives, how we celebrate with food and alcohol, and soothe ourselves and others with food and alcohol “treats”. I think about how our core values are messaged through our choices of what and how we eat, both intentionally through holiday rituals and unintentionally in our daily routines.

I want to keep what’s good from my life experiences, and discard what is not supportive of my living mindfully, well, and feeling good in the years to come. So I’ve retained my mother’s black-eyed peas New Years good luck in wealth tradition– I’ve taken her recipe, and made it mine by deleting the ham, deleting the fear of loss and not having enough. I’ve added kale and hot pepper, self-reliance with a career to support myself and my daughter, also study of nutrition and exercise for physical well being, and thus confidence. Here’s to a healthy and wealthy, purposeful and productive, and happy New Year for all!

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas, well rinsed
  • 1 T plus 1 t whole-grain or Dijon mustard
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 hot pepper, diced (I used hot lemon drop)
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped into thin ribbons
  • scant 1/4 c olive oil
  • scant 1/8 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed juice with pulp
  • scant 1/2 t sea salt
  • fresh ground green or black pepper to taste

instructions:
Carefully inspect dried black eyed peas, discard any stones or misfits, then rinse well. Place dried peas in a large pot, cover with water and let soak to soften for 4-8  hours or overnight. Rinse well. Cover generously with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft but not mushy, about 30 min-1 hour. Drain. Rinse to cool and drain again.

Place the chopped kale in a large bowl, drizzle with a little of the olive oil and salt, then massage until just softened. Add in the diced vegetables. Stir together well, then add the drained cooked black-eyed peas and mix those in gently. Whisk together the remaining olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.  This can be made a day or even two ahead– refrigerated in a covered casserole dish, the flavors will meld. Serve hot over rice as Hoppin’ John, a traditional black-eyed pea dish, enhanced with veggies.

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cauliflower & turnip soup with caraway & black mustard seeds


I don’t much like Facebook engagement gimmick challenges and games, but when I saw the “Seven days, seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation.” challenge, I knew one of my family or friends would tag me. And I didn’t dread it, as I enjoy taking my camera out several times a day, most days. There are so many interesting and beautiful things to really look at and engage with through a lens. Naturally one of the first photos I took as a black and white composition had to do with cooking. I was thinking about the cauliflower soup I wanted to make that day…

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ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red potato, chopped
  • 1 turnip, chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, including stems, chopped into small flowerettes
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • 1 t caraway seeds
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 t sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups fresh water

instructions:

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Meanwhile, using large soup pot heat a couple tablespoons olive oil over medium heat then add black mustard seeds. Stir until seeds start to pop, then add caraway seeds and chopped onions and continue to stir for 2 minutes. Add red potato and minced garlic and continue to stir for about 2 minutes, until onions and red potatoes have started to brown. Add chopped turnip, cauliflower, celery, and carrot, then about 6 cups of water just prior or post boiling. Add salt and reduce heat to simmer covered for about 10 minutes; simmer until all veggies are soft, then remove from heat to cool. After cooled, puree soup in batches carefully in a half-full blender, then return to soup pot. Add fresh ground black pepper, and salt to taste. Serve hot.

This soup is both savory with a hint of natural sweetness, the caraway a pleasing and comforting following flavor. I thought initially I’d serve this garnished with pomegranate seeds, but decided against that. I chose to garnish my soup with fresh cranberries and my partner had his “straight up”– delicious with a salad of romaine and radicchio, daikon radish, roasted pumpkin seeds and feta.

 

cauliflower quinoa salad with caraway & pomegranate seeds, fresh cranberries


I wanted to think of a novel vegetarian and gluten free seasonal side dish that’s easy to make ahead, serve warm or at room temp, and yummy as leftovers, that complements a traditional turkey Thanksgiving dinner…  This is my take for this year’s sharing. I made extra quinoa as it’s great with a little left over turkey to turn a simple green salad into a delicious dinner salad. Or the basis for a yummy breakfast with fresh cranberries, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and ground flax seed.

My thoughts turn to my childhood Thanksgiving dinners– my favorite dishes were my great grandmother’s fresh cranberry sauce simmered on the stovetop, my grandmother’s mashed sweet potatoes topped  with oven browned marshmallows, my Aunt’s perfectly browned scalloped potatoes with lots of onions and cheese, my uncle’s fresh pressed apple cider, then his apple sauce made from apple trees he planted on his farm. Oh my, goodness! although now of course I know marshmallows are not truly food.  My original family has died or scattered far apart, both figuratively and literally. I especially miss my daughter this year in a different time zone, both prepping in the kitchen with her and taking a long trail dog walk together as food cooks. Yet I’m happy to have a chosen family to join, my partner and his original and extended family. Several in my daughter’s generation of this tribe are now vegan and/or gluten free; the majority of this gathering are not. Traditions run strong here too– one daughter insists to another only her dad knows the proper amount of milk and butter to use to turn the hand mashed potatoes into their favorite dish, and a grandmother’s dark cherry jello with pear, apple, and pineapple chunks hidden inside the wiggly mass elicits a huge smile from a happy college athlete granddaughter. Of course jello is not real food either, but that is not relevant to these two this night. Bon appetite!

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ingredients:

  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 ripe pomegranate, seeded
  • 1 cup or so fresh cranberries
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 t caraway seed
  • 1/2 t sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 T fresh lemon juice

instructions:

I use two pots to cook the quinoa separately as the red quinoa likes to simmer for several minutes longer than the white quinoa. Rinse each of the quinoas very well, then cover each in 2 cups fresh water. Add a dash of salt to each pot, bring just to boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered until water is just absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, about 18-20 minutes for the white and 22-25 minutes for the red. Remove from heat, fluff with fork and allow to rest uncovered as you chop veggies. Then using a large bowl, stir together your desired mix of white and red quinoa. Saute diced shallots in 2 T olive oil in a large frying pan until lightly browned and just starting to caramelize, then add to mixing bowl. Using same frying pan and a pat of organic butter if you dont have vegans joining in the meal, add caraway seed and stir for a minute, then add garlic to saute briefly, then chopped cauliflower. Stir for 2 minutes or so to lightly brown the cauliflower and coat in the spices, then add a couple T fresh water, salt and black pepper; reduce heat and cover to simmer for 2 minutes. Lastly add fresh cranberries to steam too for about 2 minutes until cauliflower and cranberries are just softening. Add to mixing bowl together with pomegranate seeds, and dress with a couple T of fresh lemon juice. Cover with foil when warming in oven. Stores well for two days refrigerated in an airtight Tupperware container.

yellow squash and kale salad with figs, pumpkin seeds, ginger & lime


Indian Summer hot days and quickly cooling evenings, plentiful summer squash and ripe figs were my inspiration for this turn of season main dish salad. Bright yellow and deep green, the sweet figs and tart lime, the crunch of the seeds– yum! This is a full and satisfying healthy meal, with good protein from the tempeh and pumpkin seeds, lots of vitamin C, A, and K from the yellow peppers and kale, minerals potassium and calcium from the figs, magnesium and zinc from the seeds.

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ingredients:

  • 12 oz tempeh, cubed
  • 1-2 medium yellow crooked neck squash, coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • about 6 black mission figs, thinly sliced and halved
  • 1/2 cup raw or dry roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 inch fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1 lime, juice and pulp
  • black pepper to taste

instructions:

Pour 2 T olive oil into skillet and heat over medium flame. Stir black mustard seeds until they begin to pop, then add cubed tempeh and saute until lightly browned. Set the tempeh aside in a casserole dish with lid. Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet and saute the coarsely chopped yellow squash and minced ginger root for 3 minutes or so, then add the chopped yellow pepper, a splash of white wine or water, reduce the heat and simmer covered for 2 minutes until squash and yellow peppers are bright and softened, but not mushy. Add this to the tempeh.

Cut the thick stems from the kale, then cut the leaves lengthwise in half, roll and slice into thin ribbons. Place kale in large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a scant 1/8 t salt, then massage the kale with your hands for about 3 minutes to soften it.

Mix the tempeh with squash and yellow peppers into the softened kale, adding in your chopped red onion and pumpkin seeds. Lastly gently add the sliced figs. Dress with juice and pulp of lime. Refrigerate in covered casserole dish. Serve chilled or warmed.

yellow split pea dal with garden hot peppers and rainbow chard


An Indian Summer cool morning then bright sunny hot day with a breeze, ahhhh. “Another trip around the sun”. The changing season and the ripe peppers and chard in my garden told me it was time to revisit making spicy yellow split pea dal– I started in my garden and moved to my kitchen sink.

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Then I looked for a prior recipe post with this as a lead in:

“One of the many great things about yellow split pea dal is that dried split peas don’t require soaking before cooking, and they cook in 30 minutes, a much shorter time required than for dried beans. They’re high in protein and dietary fiber, satisfying and healthy; I did the math and calculated this recipe has 310 calories per cup served over a cup of rainbow chard. I made a large pot of the dal, and served it on a bed of rainbow chard leaves cut into ribbons topped with 1/4 cup of Bhutanese Red Rice for an easy “one bowl” meal. Leftovers taste great, and it freezes well.”

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Then I considered, how would I like to make this today? I tweaked the spices and used coconut milk given how hot and dry the weather has been– following is my revised recipe today.

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  •  large jewel yam, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium red Nardello pepper, diced (these are sweeter savory)
  • 1 small Lemon Drop hot pepper, diced with seeds
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 in fresh ginger root, minced
  • 3/4 t cardamom
  • 3/4 t coriander
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1/4 t salt, black pepper to taste
  • 1 6oz can Thai coconut milk
  • 1 lemon, juice and pulp
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard

instructions:

Cull through then rinse split peas well, cover with 4 cups fresh water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer covered for about 25 minutes, until quite soft. Drain then set aside.

Cut thick stems out of rainbow chard. Chop the stems and set aside. Cut the chard leaves into thin ribbons and set aside.

In a large soup pot with 1-2 T olive oil over medium heat, add the mustard seeds and allow them to heat up til they just start to pop. Add onions, garlic, and all spices, and stir until onions just begin to turn translucent. Add the chopped yam, stir to coat well with spices, add severak tablespoons of water, reduce heat and cover to simmer until softened, about 4 minutes. Add coconut milk, yellow pepper, celery, and chopped chard stems, cover and simmer another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. When split peas are soft, drain their water into a measuring cup to use later. Add split peas to large pot of spiced vegetables, stir to mix all together well, then add the cooking fluid from the split peas to obtain your desired consistency of dal. Serve over rainbow chard ribbons, dress with fresh squeezed lemon. Serve in a bowl with Bhutanese red rice for a more substantial meal.

chilled garden gazpacho soup with spicy lemon drop peppers


Well I’ve got bowls of fresh picked tomatoes, zucchini, and now also several new-to-my-garden varieties of hot peppers ripe and ready to harvest. And it’s still too hot to cook. Well then, I haven’t had a wonderful bowl of gazpacho since I took a trip to Tulum, Mexico many years ago. Looking at my favorite old cookbooks from my young adulthood and early vegetarian cooking years– Moosewood cookbooks by Molly Katzen, The Good Herb by Judith Hurley, The Greens Cook Book– also a quick look online, I found unappealing gazpacho recipes that rely on V-8 or tomato juice. Not for me. I wanted most of my gazpacho ingredients to be fresh from my own vegetable and herb gardens.

I decided to get out the blender, begin coarse chopping and dicing, creating my own recipe as I chopped. The result was delicious, every bite as wonderful as my happy memories of a meal shared in a Mexican ecological paradise. What follows is all the ingredients and an approximation of their quantities– I didn’t measure much as I worked. This made 4-6 satisfying dinner sized servings.

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ingredients:

  • about 6-8 cups mixed variety of ripe red tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups), 2/3 coarsely chopped and 1/3 diced
  • 1 cucumber (about 1 1/2 cups), 1/2 coarsely chopped and 1/2 diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium yellow Lemon Drop pepper, including seeds, diced
  • 4-6 leaves fresh basil, diced
  • about 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • about 3/4 c water, from carafe with mint kept chilled in the fridge
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1/4 t sea salt, black pepper to taste
  • cilantro, chopped, for garnish

instructions:

Using a large cutting board and a blender, coarsely chop tomatoes and place in blender until it’s about half full, and puree til smooth with a half cup of the mint infused water. Transfer to large soup pot. Again fill blender with coarsely chopped tomatoes, the minced garlic, diced basil, diced hot pepper, the olive oil and rice wine vinegar. Pulse until you achieve your desired consistency: some like gazpacho silky smooth, but I like mine with some texture. Transfer to soup pot. Again fill blender with coarsely chopped tomatoes, about 2/3 of your coarsely chopped zucchini and about 1/3 of your coarsely chopped cucumbers, and the lime juice, and pulse to your desired consistency. If necessary, add either some of your previously pureed soup or a little more mint water to have enough fluid initially to allow you to achieve your desired texture. Add to soup pot. Also add to soup pot your minced red onion and celery, the reserved diced zucchini and cucumber, a little sea salt and black pepper, also more lime juice if desired. Chill for at least half a day before tasting and fine tuning the seasonings. Serve chilled with plenty of cilantro garnish.

 

chilled zucchini soup with lemon, thyme and fresh dill


What to do when the heat wave wears on and on, and the garden is full of big delicious ripened bounty? I’ve been steadfast about watering daily– even when I really wasn’t eager to be out in the heat anymore– and I’ve lost little to the crazy heat. I made several loaves of buckwheat zucchini bread during brief cooler cloudy day breaks, also cold dinner salads with just-picked zucchini, cucumber, mint, and the first of my ripened tomatoes and hot peppers. But I’ve got LOTS of zucchini… and now a flavorful and satisfying chilled zucchini soup recipe to enjoy.

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ingredients:

  • 1 medium large leek, chopped
  • 2 medium red potatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 6 c coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium Serrano pepper, diced, with seeds
  • 1 t caraway seeds
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh lemon thyme
  • 5-6 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • l lemon, juice and pulp
  • scant 1/2 t sea salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • several T fresh dill, chopped, for garnish

instructions:

Discard thick and dark green ends of leek. Coarsely chop zucchini by slicing in half lengthwise, perhaps in quarters if large, then chop into 1/4 inch slices. Chop tender leek and saute over medium heat in 2 T butter, adding caraway seeds to toast. Add 2 T olive oil, the red potato and minced garlic, stir for 2-3 minutes until red potato just begins to brown. Add diced Serrano, a couple T water, reduce heat and cover with lid; steam until potatoes are just beginning to soften. Add grated carrot, chopped celery and zucchini, spices except dill, and a splash of white wine, continue to steam covered for about 5-8 minutes until potatoes and zucchini are pleasingly softened but not mushy. Remove from heat and allow to cool some before pureeing in half full blender. Add freshly squeezed lemon, salt and ground pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Garnish with plenty of fresh chopped dill, perhaps a dollop of plain European style yogurt. I served this on a hot night with Triscuit rye crackers and a fresh salad with walnuts, feta and fresh tomatoes.