Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hoppin' John and Collard Greens

I've been wanting to try Hoppin' John for quite some time.  What could be better than a New Year's tradition that centers around simple, flavorful food?

Hoppin' John is a Southern dish traditionally made with black-eyed peas, rice, and bacon (or another form of pork).  The earliest written record of the dish comes from an 1847 cookbook entitled The Carolina Housewife, but the dish is said to date back to the slave trade.  Today, the consumption of Hoppin' John on New Year's is said to bring good luck for the coming year.  Although the addition of extra pork is thought to bring more good luck, I like to think that this vegan version of the dish is lucky enough. 

A plate of steaming Hoppin' John and Collard Greens (pre-hot sauce).

Even though it's long past the New Year, here's a recipe for Hoppin' John and Collard Greens. 

Hoppin' John and Collard Greens
  • 1 large bunch collard greens, chopped (including the stems)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 - 15.5 ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

(NOTE: The list of ingredients includes cooked rice.  Be sure to cook the rice ahead of time, or start cooking the rice before beginning the rest of the dish.)

Bring water to boil in a large soup pot.  Add the collard greens and cook for 15 minutes.  Then, reserve 1 cup liquid before draining.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup vinegar, agave nectar, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 4 teaspoons olive oil and garlic over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, and remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder, and cook for about 8 minutes, or until they begin to turn soft.  Then, add the drained collard greens, vinegar mixture, 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the skillet.  Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the rice, beans, and remaining 1/2 cup cooking liquid in a skillet until heated through.

Serve the rice, beans, and greens together. Yields 6 servings.

The flavors in this dish are quite simple, and I enjoyed the fact that the collard greens and black-eyed peas truly stand out as the stars of the dish (rather than a sauce or spice).  The dish is neither sweet nor spicy, as the incorporation of both agave nectar and chili powder seems to achieve a good balance.  To add a bit of tang, and in true Southern fashion, we added some Louisiana-style hot sauce on top.
We had no trouble finding the ingredients in this dish.  The grocery store always seems to have collard greens, while kale and other dark, leafy greens are much more difficult to come by.  Tip: you can probably find agave nectar in the same grocery aisle as the honey.   
 Ease of Preparation:        
There are several components to this dish happening at once.  However, as always, chopping ingredients in advance will minimize confusion. 
Non-vegan friendliness:             
Someone who is familiar with bacon-laden Hoppin' John would probably miss the meaty flavor in this simple dish (and if that's the case, you could always add chopped imitation bacon to the mix).  Still, it's hard to find a healthier, more filling combination than black-eyed peas, rice, and greens.  I'd be very willing to serve this dish sans bacon to any non-vegan.

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