Happy 2014! I hope everyone had an amazing New Year’s!
In New York City people tend to make a BIG deal of New Year’s Eve. Since the town we call home sets the precedent for what a New Year’s celebration is supposed to be, New Yorkers tend to go big. Usually a little too big.
Russell and I however usually stay home, cook a big meal, and watch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. I proposed on New Year’s Eve a few years ago, so we tend to think of that night as a night for each other. A night to be alone together. Rather than go out and party like lunatics, we prefer to stay at home with each other and our pups. Our little family is a motley crew but we’re happy being with each other.
This year however a good friend invited us to a party directly across the street from our apartment, so we decided we should probably put some pants on and go be social. Of course, like the rest of New York, we let the mood of the evening get the best of us and we got carried away. We had an amazing evening having a blast with our friends and we’re so glad we went, but considering out plans for the next morning, maybe we should have stuck with tradition and stayed home. We had a little bit of a hard time getting moving the next morning, but in the end we pulled it together and had a pretty wonderful New Year’s day too.
This year we decided to host a brunch for New Year’s Day and bring together the people we love in New York and get the new year started right. 2013 was an amazing year for us and we thought a brunch with our favorite people would be a great way to make sure 2014 would be just as great. In 2013 we were married, we got our second schnauzer Betty, I celebrated my 30th birthday, we visited Europe, and I started Brooklyn Homemaker. It’s going to be a tough year to beat, but we’re sure going to try!
Planning a menu for New Year’s day is pretty much a no brainer. Southern food is super traditional for New Year’s day so I didn’t really have to put any thought into other options. There is a lot of symbolism behind the foods we eat on New Year’s day, and everything on the plate is supposed to help bring something great into your life in the coming year.
Black eyed peas are one of the most important foods on the New Year’s plate, and for good reason. Black eyed peas have been a symbol of good luck in Jewish culture for centuries, but in Southern cooking, the tradition dates back to the Civil War. The story goes that when Union troops rolled through the southern countryside they stripped large areas of all stored food and livestock and destroyed many crops and farms. At the time, black eyed peas weren’t really eaten in the north and usually went overlooked or ignored, leaving that crop to be what helped feed Southerners while they rebuilt. Since black eyed peas swell when you cook them, they’re also supposed to symbolize prosperity and growth in the new year.
Other Southern traditional foods include braised greens, usually collard, turnip, or mustard greens; along with pork or ham of some kind. Greens are meant to symbolize money since they’re, well, green; and since pigs can’t look backward without turning around, they’re meant to symbolize forward motion and moving on from the past.
I decided to go all out traditional Southern with black eyed peas, braised collard greens, buttermilk biscuits, and pork sausage gravy. When making these foods, ham is usually used to help flavor your peas and greens, but of course, I don’t live in the south. I live in Brooklyn, so I had dietary restrictions to keep in mind and had to find vegetarian alternatives to add flavor to my peas and greens, and had to thicken my sausage gravy with rice flour for my friends who simply will not tolerate gluten. In the end though, our plates were packed with flavor and I wouldn’t have changed a thing! To accompany our meal I served up a big pitcher of Southern sweet tea, and those of us that wanted some hair of the dog spiked it with lemon vodka. Afterward we dug into a harvest cake, similar to carrot cake, complete with cream cheese icing and pecans.
Below I’ve shared my recipes for vegetarian black eyed peas and collards. There’s a bit of spice to both recipes to help build flavor, but of course you could skip that if you’re not up for it. Come back soon for a special post on making biscuits and my recipe for gluten free (or not) sausage gravy. I suspect that you’ll probably want to know more about my harvest cake too, so keep checking in and you won’t be disappointed!
Vegetarian Black Eye Peas
2 tablespoons butter
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 26 oz can diced tomatoes
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Rinse your dried black eyed peas with water, and then soak them in water overnight. You want the water to be a few inches above the dried beans because they’ll expand.
In the bottom of a heavy bottomed stockpot or dutch oven, combine the onions and peppers and cook over medium high heat until tender and beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Drain and rinse the soaked beans, and add to pot. Add canned tomatoes and chilies, including liquid, along with sugar, pepper, and vinegar. Top off with enough water to come to the top of the beans.
Bring pot to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until beans are tender. Add salt, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Vegetarian Collard Greens
1 small onion
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb (or large bunch) collard greens, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped or torn
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
In a heavy bottomed stockpot or dutch oven over medium high heat, melt butter and cook onions until tender and translucent. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add collard greens, stir well and cook another minute or two. Add vegetable stock, tomatoes, and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer, cover, & cook for about 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.