Posted tagged ‘Recipe’

New Year’s Hoppin’ John Recipe

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year’s

And that means. . .black-eyed peas!

I grew up in the South, and each New Year’s Day my mother insisted that we eat black-eyed peas.  She said the black-eyed peas brought good luck, and who was I to argue with my mother? So we ate black-eyed peas, usually canned ones. They were okay, but I never looked forward to that meal.

My relationship with black-eyed peas changed a few years later when a friend introduced me to Hoppin’ John, a Southern New Year’s recipe that combines black-eyed peas cooked with ham hocks and rice.  It’s really, really delicious—particularly when you add collard greens and drizzle malt vinegar over the top! And, of course, what’s a Southern meal without cornbread?

A folklorist friend from Georgia, Fred Fussell, sent me his traditional New Year’s menu:

Black-eyed peas – for good luck.

Collard greens – for folding money.

Pork fat – for plenty in the coming year.

Rice – because it’s cheap and goes so well with peas.

Baked sweet potatoes – for thriftyness.

Corn bread – because that’s what you always eat with collards and black-eyed peas.


1 tablespoon olive oil

large ham hock

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed

4 cups chicken stock or water

Bay leaf

1 teaspoon thyme

Salt, black pepper, and cayenne or red pepper flakes

Steamed white rice or cooked wild rice


Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and brown on all sides. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and sauté until the onion begins to get transparent. Add the black-eyed peas, liquid, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the peas are tender, stirring occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Remove the ham hock from the peas, cut the ham off of the bone and into bite-size pieces.  Stir ham back into peas. Season to taste. Serve over rice.

If you’re adding collard greens, a great way to cook them is to wash them thoroughly, slice into big pieces, and sauté in olive oil and garlic until they are tender.

Put the whole concoction into a bowl and splash with malt vinegar.  Eat and prepare for a year full of good luck!

More Holiday Recipes: Eggplant Dressing & Ro-Tel Dip

December 22, 2009

Here are two family recipes this holiday season, both from my mother: Eggplant Dressing and Ro-Tel Dip.  They both bring back memories of my Texas childhood.

My mother found the Eggplant Dressing recipe in our local newspaper, The Houston Post, in the late 1960s.  It was in a recipe section for Southern turkey stuffing, and it was from a Mrs. Jimmy T. Watson.  (You can tell it’s old-style Southern because Mrs. Watson didn’t give her own first name!) I remember that as soon as the word “eggplant” came out of my mother’s mouth, my brother and sister and I made it clear that we weren’t in the least interested.  Eggplant?  Nope.  It looked weird.

Mom paid no attention to us, and she made it for Thanksgiving dinner.  Somehow she got us to try a bite.

And we loved it!  I still make it for holidays.

The Ro-Tel Dip is a whole ‘nother story.  One of my earliest memories is of my mother making a cheese dip in her double boiler on top of the stove.  Back then tortilla chips weren’t readily available in stores, so she always used Fritos to dip into the cheese.  I never liked Fritos, but I learned to love her Ro-Tel Dip.

The name comes from the canned tomatoes that she used—the labels said they were from Ro-Tel, Texas.  They’re a mix of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and spices. I searched for the history of Ro-Tel tomatoes online, and it turns out that the canning factory opened in Elsa, Texas, in the 1940s—the family business of Carl Roettele.  He shortened the name to Ro-Tel.  Until the late 1950s, Ro-Tel tomatoes were available only in San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. But by the early 1960s, you could find them on grocery store shelves throughout the South.  These days there are several kinds of Ro-Tel tomatoes, each with a different color label.  I really like the Cilantro and Lime flavor—it’s in the blue can!

My friends are usually horrified when I tell them what’s in the dip, but this stuff is totally addictive.  And talk about cachet—evidently Velveeta was one of President Reagan’s favorite foods. The only trick is actually finding Velveeta in the grocery store.  It’s not in the dairy case!


1 Tbs bacon drippings (Mom now substitutes olive oil)

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced

1 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup cooking sherry

2 cups cooked rice (we use wild rice)

1 cup pecans, chopped (we toast these beforehand)

Heat the bacon drippings and combine eggplant, beef, pork, onion, celery, garlic, and parsley on medium heat, stirring frequently to keep the beef and pork in small pieces. Simmer 20 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain, then add the sherry, rice and pecans.  Toss mixture.

Place in greased casserole and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Note: The earlier you make it, giving some time to let the flavors meld, the better it tastes.


1 can Ro-Tel Tomatoes

1 lb Velveeta

Cut the Velveeta into cubes and put into microwave-safe bowl.  Pour can of Ro-Tel tomatoes onto the Velveeta and mix well.  Microwave until ready (I usually nuke it for about three minutes, stir it well, and repeat until it’s all melted).

That’s it.  Really.

Holiday Traditions: Krumkake and Melting Moments

December 22, 2009

When I was a kid, about the only link to my mom’s Norwegian heritage was the food we ate at Christmas: Norwegian meatballs (not to be confused with Swedish meatballs!), lefse, rosettes, melting moments cookies and one of my favorites: krumkake.  Krumkake are wafer-thin cookies rolled into cones, slightly sweet and not a little addictive.

Krumkake was one of the few things I wasn’t allowed to help with as a child – now that I make them myself, I understand why.  It’s all about timing, and getting into the zone, which is hard to do while wrangling a small child. Spoon the batter, close the lid, wait, turn, open, remove, roll, spoon the batter…

When I turned 21, my mom gave me her krumkake iron, which had been given to her when she turned 21 by a dear family friend.  I hope to continue the tradition.  You can probably find your own iron at Olsen’s Scandinavian Foods in Ballard or online.  The one I have was made by Nordic Ware in Minneapolis and fits over a stovetop burner; newer ones are electric.

If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, they’re well worth the effort!

3 eggs (well beaten)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1/2 c flour
1 tsp almond, lemon or vanilla flavoring

Mix sugar to beaten eggs; beat well.  Add melted butter, then flour and flavoring.   Drop by teaspoon (we always use a dinner spoon) onto krumkake iron.

There’s a pretty good primer on the process here.  The first few you make probably won’t look pretty and that’s okay.  Some people fill them with whipped cream and fruit, but we always preferred them unadulterated in the traditional Norwegian way.

I have no idea how many this makes, to be honest.  Probably around 2-3 dozen.  Store uncovered or loosely covered so that they retain their crispness.

Want something a little easier? Try my great-grandma Anita Butler’s Melting Moments cookies.  They’re basically shortbread with icing.  Whenever I make them for a party, they’re gone in a flash.  Seriously.  I’ve seen people fight over the last one.

1/2 lb butter
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c cornstarch
1 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix powdered sugar into softened butter, then add cornstarch, then flour.  The dough will be fairly stiff.   Form into approximately 1″ balls.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until just barely golden brown on the bottom.  While cookies are cooling, make a powdered sugar frosting:
2 TB melted butter
dash of milk
about a cup of powdered sugar
white vanilla (you can use regular vanilla, but your cookies won’t look as powder-white)

Play around with the consistency by adding more powdered sugar or more milk until you get it right – not too drippy, not super thick.   Dip top of cookies in icing and place on a bakers rack or wax paper to dry.  If you like, you can add sugar sprinkles as well.

These will take several hours to dry.   Makes around 3 dozen.  Try not to eat them all at once.

Happy Hanukkah!

December 14, 2009

Tonight is the third night of Hanukkah and to celebrate the holiday, I will be making latkes- traditional potato pancakes fried in oil. I learned to make them when I was a kid and the (slightly modified) recipe below can be found in The Hanukkah Book by Marilyn Burns.

Potato Latkes


  • 5 medium sized potatoes, grated (to cut down on time, I thaw a couple bags of frozen shredded hash browns)
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 eggs
  • vegetable oil


  • Preheat oven to 250° to keep latkes warm after frying
  • Grate potatoes and remove excess water using a sieve (or just use the hash brown shortcut)
  • Combine potatoes and onions in a large bowl
  • Beat eggs in a small bowl and add to potato and onion mixture
  • Add the flour, salt and pepper, mixing well
  • Pour enough vegetable oil into the bottom of a large frying pan so that it is approx. 1/4 inch deep and turn the burner on at medium to medium-high heat
  • Put a heaping tablespoon of batter into the oil and press it with a slotted pancake turner into a thin pancake
  • Turn latkes as the edges brown, when done they will be golden brown and crisp
  • Blot off excess oil with paper towels as you remove latkes from the pan and place them in a shallow pan in the oven
  • Serve warm with applesauce and sour cream