Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Luck for the New Year, Southern Style

As we approach the end of the year and the end of the holiday season, I always reach for one certain pantry staple.

If you grew up in the South or your family has Southern roots, you probably know that black eyed peas are considered lucky in this region of the country. People serve them on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in many different ways. My mother used to make black eyed peas with ham and serve them with cornbread. My Southern grandmother served Hoppin' John with hush puppies.

According to my family, black eyed peas should be the first thing you eat as the year changes and we leave behind the old to take up the new, which is the reason I always serve them New Year's Eve. I have made my mother's recipe and my grandmother's recipe. My children would never eat them, not even a bite. Come to think of it, I didn't eat them readily as a child, either. I experimented to find a way to prepare black eyed peas that my children might enjoy. For the last five or six years, this recipe has been a staple of our New Year's Eve celebration:

Black Eyed Pea Salsa

olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped ham
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 15 ounce can black-eyed peas, drained
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon seeded, finely chopped jalapeno pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, ham, and garlic. Saute until onions are tender, about five minutes. Stir in cumin and next three ingredients; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and jalapeno. Spoon salsa into a bowl; cover and chill one to eight hours.

Serve at room temperature with pork or chicken or as a dip with crusty French bread or tortilla chips. Yields about 3 1/2 cups.

Those of you who have recently indulged yourselves (you know who you are) will be happy to know this is a healthy, filling treat. Plus it's tasty and lucky to boot.

Happy New Year to you and yours!