Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Milk Moon

Last week was the new moon of what Annette Hinshaw calls the Milk Moon. Usually the Milk Moon begins later in January and the earth would be reflecting the first struggles of a new baby to grow and thrive. This year the Milk Moon began just before the new year and though we recently had 10 inches of snow melt overnight the earth is still deeply in the grip of winter. For a minute it felt like a false spring because of the green emerging from beneath the snow. False it was, though, seeing as nothing is growing and everything is still flattened by the ice and snow.

Right on the heels of solstice and Christmas comes another winter holiday that fell in the Milk Moon this year - New Years! Our New Years Day, celebrated in deep winter, is more a Roman custom than a Northern European pagan custom, but it's a rowdy fun holiday none the less. As is usual for Americans I went out with friends, enjoyed more than my fair share of alcoholic drinks and spend the first day of 2009 sleeping it all off. Happy New Year!

There are lots of traditions that are supposed to bring luck for the new year. All of my favorite, of course, include food. Hoppin' John is a traditional New Year's dish of black eyed peas or field peas and rice cooked with various pork products. It is indigenous to the African American cuisine of the southern U.S, the Carribean, Central America and Northern South America; everywhere Africans were brought as slaves to the New World.

Beans are a traditional New Year's food in Europe as well as America. The Italians eat lentils and both cultures claim that the little round beans look like money. Eat a bowl of beans on New Years Day and your coffers will be full all year. In the American South greens like collards accentuate the magic - a big pile of green is welcome all year round :) On New Year's day I made an easy stovetop version of Hoppin' John and a big pile of curly kale. It was easy, delicious and pleasantly warming on a cold, rainy night.

Stovetop Hoppin' John
Serves 3 or 4
*1/3 cup diced ham1 slice of bacon, diced
*1/2 onion, diced
*2 cloves garlic, pressed
*1 1/2 cups long grained rice
*3 cups liquid - water and/or chicken stock
*1 can of black eyed peas
*salt, pepper, dried thyme
Satuee the ham, bacon and onions together in a 2 or 3 quart pan with a lid until the bacon has rendered it's fat and the onion is soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and thyme and sautee a minute more. Add the rice to the pot and sautee until the edges of the rice turn transluscent, or just a minute or two.
If the bottom of your pan is quite dark with carmelizing pork add just a little of the liquid at a time and scrape the browned bits off the pot. Otherwise, add the liquid, stir to combine and bring the whole thing to a boil. Add a little salt (be careful, both the ham and the bacon are salty) and black pepper then cover and turn heat to low.
When the rice is mostly cooked, in about 10 or 15 minutes, gently stir the peas into the rice mixture. Canned black eyed peas are quite soft so I had to literally fold them in. Taste and adjust salt then put the lid back on and let the rice heat up the beans. Make your greens while this is happening. Enjoy with some hot sauce or more black pepper.

Steam-Sauteed Hearty Greens
*1 bunch of curly kale or collards or mustard greens
*2 cloves garlic, sliced
*1 tbs bacon grease plus a little olive oil
*a shake of red pepper flakes
*a pinch of salt
*a dash of red wine vinegar
Clean the kale and remove the leaves from the stem. Chop or tear the leaves into fork sized pieces. Heat a couple inches of water in a pan big enough to hold all of the kale. When it is boiling add the greens, stir a bit with a wooden spoon or tongs and cover. Let the kale steam a minute up to five then drain in a colander. While the kale is draining and drying a bit heat the fat in a sautee pan or wok. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook until the garlic is starting to brown a bit. Add the kale and toss and turn with tongs. Cook until the kale is fully incorporated with the flavored oil. Sprinkle with salt and then finish with vinegar.

The time right after New Year's Day is a time for reflecting and thinking about plans for the upcoming year. 2008 was a great year. I have had wonderful times and learned so much. 2009 will just get better :)

What did you do to ring in the New Year? How is 2009 going to shape up for you? What's your favorite way to cook greens? :) Happy New Year and may we all have our bowls overflowing and our greens piled up in 2009!

1 comment:

Walk in the Woods said...

What a fabulous post! Of course, I'm a new year's day bean-eater, so of course I would say that! Half Italian too. And a moon follower! :)

Bountiful blessings to you and a happy, happy, happy new calendar year!