Lasagna Bianca – White Lasagna with Spinach & Matzo crackers

I will admit, a lasagna made with matzo crackers had me a little skeptical but I was proved wrong. It turned out great. Substituting the lasagna noodles with matzo crackers gives it a similar texture and a little different flavor, but in a good way.

Our lasagna bianca just after we pulled it out of the oven.
Our lasagna bianca just after we pulled it out of the oven.

Ingredients

the spinach sauce

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cups frozen spinach, chopped or 1 can of spinach, chopped

The White Sauce

  • 1 container ricotta cheese (32 oz)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Everything Else

  • Matzo crackers, lightly salted
  • 1 lb ground hot Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Make the spinach sauce:

  1. In a large pot, combine the butter and olive oil on medium heat until melted. Add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté until they are translucent and fragrant.
  2. Add the flour and whisk until it is all incorporated. Cook this mixture on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir this béchamel mixture frequently.
  3. Add the 2 1/2 cups of whole milk and whisk until combined. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture has thickened.
  4. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and spinach into the white sauce. Heat this on low. If you are using frozen spinach, heat until the spinach is warm and fully defrosted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Allow to cool before assembling the lasagna.

Make the white sauce

  1. In a separate bowl, add the ricotta cheese, egg, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Whisk this together.

Brown the hot Italian sausage

  1. If you have sausage links, remove the casings.
  2. Heat a pan over medium heat. Once hot, put the sausage in the pan.
  3. Break the sausage apart with a spatula to get it into as many pieces as possible.
  4. Stir occasionally as it browns. Reduce the heat if it’s browning too quickly. This should take 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool before assembling the lasagna.

Assemble the lasagna

  1. Add a thin layer of the spinach sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.
  2. Add a layer of matzo crackers. You can break the crackers as needed to make a full layer.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the matzo cracker layer. Spread this out evenly.
  4. Add a layer of the browned ground Italian sausage.
  5. Sprinkle a think layer of crushed red pepper flakes.
  6. Repeat with additional layers of spinach sauce, matzo crackers, ricotta cheese sauce, sausage, and red pepper flakes.
  7. Once you reach the top of your dish (or run out of ingredients for layers) pour on the 1/2 cup of whole milk across the top, then cover with mozzarella cheese. The milk helps add moisture for the matzo crackers to absorb.
  8. Cover the dish with foil and place it on a baking sheet (in case it flows over). Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
  9. Remove the foil and allow the top to brown for an additional 15 minutes.

Variations

This recipe was inspired by a number of online recipes we found, but mostly by one of my favorite sites, The Spruce Eats. They have some variations that include other vegetables and other cheeses. They also suggest using store bought Alfredo if you’re short on time or use marinara if you want a more traditional red lasagna.

We added the nutmeg to the ricotta sauce and the sausage and red pepper flakes that weren’t in the original recipe. You could make this without the sausage or you can also use other sausages, like a breakfast sausage or even ground beef.

Italian Wedding Soup

We found this recipe a couple of years ago on the back of a box of pasta at the City Market grocery store in Breckenridge, CO. There are a bunch of variations online, but this one is really simple and we use it as the base for our variations.

Options:
• If you make broth from your Thanksgiving Turkey, this is a perfect use for that broth. 
• If you’re using sausage and in a rush, you can slice the sausage into thin slices. It’s not traditional but it gets the same flavor.
• If you’re like us and make large batches of Italian Meatballs, you can use your leftovers in this recipe instead of the sausage. Just cut large meatballs down into 1/2 inch pieces.
• We found a recipe that includes cherry tomatoes. We add those, too, from time to time because we like the extra flavor, even though it’s not traditional.

A picture of a cutting board and ingredients for Italian Wedding Soup.
Preparing Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth (use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage (or your favorite sausage) or Italian meatballs
  • 1 cup Acini de Pepe pasta
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (optional)
  • 3 cups of baby spinach or kale (or a mix of both)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • Salt & pepper for taste
A picture of Italian Wedding Soup cooking
Italian Wedding Soup

Directions

  1. Prep your vegetables.
    Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute for 4 minutes, of until they are starting to soften. Add the garlic and saute for a couple more minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth and red pepper flakes (optional) and bring it to a boil.
  3. Roll the sausage meat into 1/2 inch meatballs. or cut it into small slices. If you’re using traditional meatballs, cut them into halves or quarters so they are about 1/2 inch.
  4. Add the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 4 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. 
  5. Add the baby spinach or kale, and the acini di pepe pasta and cherry tomatoes (optional) and simmer for 7 more minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Serve up in large bowls. Add the chopped parsley as a garnish on the soup.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

This is a picture of our stuffed squash.

We ordered some food from a local restaurant supply company that has started delivering to consumers. First off, the quality of everything they delivered was much higher than any grocery store. Now we know where the good stuff goes.

They had some squash so we included acorn squash in our order and it was so good. We’ve baked them, grilled them, and stuffed them. This stuffing is probably my favorite.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (or ground beef, chicken, turkey, sausage, meatless alt.-whatever you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (or Italian seasoning if preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut 1-inch off the top of each acorn squash and scoop out the seeds. If necessary in order for the squash to sit upright, cut off a small portion of the bottom. Rub the melted butter in the cavity of each squash and sprinkle the inside with kosher salt and ground pepper. Set squash on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a large saute pan over medium heat, brown the ground pork until no longer pink. Remove the meat from the pan, add the olive oil and saute the onion, celery, carrot and garlic until they begin to soften, approximately 7 to 10 minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.
  4. Return the pork to the pan along with the cooked rice, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Stirring constantly, heat mixture thoroughly, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool for 20 mins and then mix in the beat egg well.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly among the squash, top each squash with its lid and bake for 1 hour or until the squash is tender.

Autumn Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Here is a bowl of all the chunks of the Fairytale Pumpkin. The great thing about these pumpkins is that there is a lot of flesh and not a lot of empty space inside the pumpkin.
Here is a bowl of all the chunks of the Fairytale Pumpkin. The great thing about these pumpkins is that there is a lot of flesh and not a lot of empty space inside the pumpkin.

Autumn is probably my favorite season. I love the seasonal flavors that start showing up on plates as we move from light summer fare to heartier savory foods. Pumpkins and other winter squash are some the best ways to celebrate this season. You can search for butternut squash on my blog and find a number of recipes. Last fall the supermarket put the huge heirloom pumpkins on sale for 4 for $1. We got $5 of them. You can do the math, but just know it was A LOT of pumpkin. This is the soup we kept coming back to last year.

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/CDPH-Guidance-for-the-Prevention-of-COVID-19-Transmission-for-Gatherings-10-09.aspx
Autumn Pumpkin Soup

We used a large Fairytale Pumpkin for this recipe. This pumpkin can come in colors from dark green to orange and has a fairly thin skin. The flesh is firm but not fibrous like Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins. It’s also bright orange. Making the roasted pumpkin filling is very simple and because it’s so easy, I don’t know why you’d want to use a can of pumpkin if pumpkins are available. We put salt and pepper on the chunks of pumpkin before we roasted them, but if you want to use of them for sweet dishes, just roast them without any seasoning and you can use them as you need.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick (4 TBSP) of salted butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 6 cups of diced roasted pumpkin (not canned – we used Fairytale)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne (optional and to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Olive Oil or sour cream for topping
  • Optional:
    • Tabasco Sauce or your favorite hot sauce
    • Red pepper flakes

Instructions

These instructions are divided into two parts. The first part is for roasting the pumpkin. If you’re using canned pumpkin, skip down to the instructions for the soup here.


Roasted Pumpkin

For this recipe, we used about 1/2 of a large Fairytale Pumpkin. However, we cut up and roasted the whole pumpkin. We will freeze the pumpkin that isn’t used and use it later in either another soup or one of my favorites, pumpkin ravioli.

Heat oven to 400 F and put foil down on 2 large baking sheets.

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Keep the seeds for roasting them once the pumpkin is done in the oven.

Cut the pumpkin into 2 to 3 inch chunks, then toss them in a bowl with olive oil. Using our largest bowl, it took a couple bowls to get them all coated. Then we place them on baking sheets and lightly sprinkled salt and pepper on them. (Note: You can skip the salt and pepper if you want to use the roasted pumpkin for sweet dishes.)

Here are the pieces of pumpkin that have a light coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and are ready to be roasted.
Here are the pieces of pumpkin that have a light coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and are ready to be roasted.

Roast the pumpkins for about 45 minutes to an hour, until fork tender. We had large chunks and it took about 1 hour. Plus, we’re in Breckenridge, CO, and it usually takes food a little longer to cook up here at this altitude. We turned the pans every 20 minutes or so to make sure they heated evenly.

Here are the roasted pumpkin pieces after being roasted for about 1 hour.
Here are the roasted pumpkin pieces after being roasted for about 1 hour.

Let the pumpkins cool, then cut the skin away. Note that you can cut the skin away before roasting but some pumpkins are pretty tough when raw, so we’ve found it much easier to cut the skins away after roasting.

Here are the pumpkins after we skinned them. The small bowl on the left is the pumpkin that we cut into smaller pieces for the soup.
Here are the pumpkins after we skinned them. The small bowl on the left is the pumpkin that we cut into smaller pieces for the soup.

Cut the chunks down into 1 to 2 inch cubes.


Instructions for the soup

Melt the butter on medium heat, then add the onion and stir to coat onions. Cook the onions for 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, garlic, shallots, ginger. Continue sautéing these for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft.

Here are the onion, carrots, ginger and garlic cooking.
Here are the onion, carrots, shallots, ginger and garlic cooking.

Add the chicken stock, pumpkin, cayenne, cumin, and nutmeg and stir thoroughly. We added little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the soup mixture for an hour.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup mixture into a smooth consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender to blend the soup in small batches.

Taste the soup at this point. We added a little more salt and pepper and then 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a couple splashes of Tabasco sauce. We like things on the hotter side, so just add it if you like the heat. We let our soup continue to simmer for another hour with the cover on it so it wouldn’t evaporate.

Serve the soup hot and top with either a splash of olive oil or sour cream. If you roasted the pumpkin seeds, sprinkle some of these onto the soup.

A picture of our Autumn Roasted Pumpkin Soup with a side of grilled bratwurst sausage.
Autumn Roasted Pumpkin Soup with a side of bratwurst sausage.

We made this soup for two grown men and there was a lot left over. We think this is a great thing! We’ll have soup again, but you can use this soup in other dishes. We’ll reduce the soup and then add it to some marinara for a pumpkin pasta sauce. You can also add 1/2 cup of this soup to Italian Wedding Soup to give it an autumnal flair.

Spicy Asian Chili Oil

A jar of spicy Asian chili oil
Spicy Asian Chili Oil

This oil comes from a recipe on the New York Times food website. It’s included in their recipe for Ramen with Charred Scallions, Green Beans, and Chili Oil. We haven’t made the whole recipe, but the oil alone is worth making.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of neutral oil. (grapeseed, vegetable, or canola)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (of course you can add more)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Instructions

Put the red pepper flakes and the salt into a heat resistant bowl.

Put your neutral oil (we used grapeseed), ginger, and garlic into a small saucepan. OK, we like garlic so we used 4 cloves, but that’s just us. Heat this mixture over medium heat until it bubbles. It will take 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the oil mixture from the heat and carefully pour the hot oil over the red-pepper flakes and salt.

Add the sesame seeds and the sesame oil. Stir well.

Let the oil mixture sit for at least half an hour to give the flavors time to meld. Make sure to shake or stir well before using it.

This chili oil can be stored in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to a month and indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Chicken Pozole with Green Chile

Pozole is a Mexican stew that has a base of hominy. You can find versions with chicken and pork and they can either be green or red. When you’re searching for it online, a lot of the recipes use the Americanized word Posole.

This recipe originated on the side of a big can of hominy that we found at Sam’s Club. It was the Juanita’s Foods Mexican Style Hominy in a 110 oz can. We had never made this before and thought it sounded fun. The recipe on the can started with a fresh whole chicken and includes instructions on cooking the chicken. We happened to be out of town so we opted to use a rotisserie chicken. This was a great time saver. You could also use a smoked chicken, grilled chicken breast or poached chicken. To be honest, I’m not a fan of poached chicken because it doesn’t matter how many ingredients you add to the water, the chicken always tastes bland to me.

There are very many variations to this recipe that you can find online. Some call for pulled pork and some are “red” instead of green. There are also many different garnishes that you can use. We used the lime wedges and radishes, which seem to be the most popular.

This dish is typically served as a stew so you can add more chicken stock if you want it more soup like. You can also cook it down a little and make it thicker if you want to serve it with tortillas and eat it like a taco.

This serves about 7 to 8 people.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken, or 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of cooked chicken, cut into pieces
  • 55 oz of Juanita’s Mexican Style Hominy (1/2 of the large 110 oz can)
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 6 tomatillos (you can also use canned if fresh aren’t available)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground corriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Optional garnishes: lime wedges, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, diced onion, shredded cabbage, and/or dried oregano. (we used lime wedges and radishes).

Directions

  1. Prepare the poblano and jalapeno peppers by roasting them over a flame until blistered and blackened. You can roast these on the stove top of a gas stove or on your grill. If neither are available, then you can roast them under the broiler with the tomatillos (see next step). Then put them in a plastic bag to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, gently pull the blackened skin away, then seed the peppers and chop the peppers.
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  2. Prepare the tomatillos by removing the husks. Then roast them on the grill or under the broiler to give them a nice char. This should take about 5 minutes. Let the tomatillos cool, then chop them into small pieces. If you’re using canned tomatillos, you can skip the roasting step and just chop them up.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven, then saute the chopped onion and garlic for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the poblanos, jalapeno, and tomatillos to the pan and continue to saute until all items are soft.
  5. Transfer the sauteed vegetables to a blinder and puree until smooth.
  6. Remove the skin from the chicken and, using a fork, shred the chicken. Discard the bones (or set them aside for making a stock later).
  7. Add the hominy, pureed pepper mixture, shredded chicken, and 4 cups of chicken stock to the large pan or dutch oven. Mix well.
  8. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. Salt to taste.
  9. Serve with your choice of garnish: lime wedges, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, diced onion, shredded cabbage, and/or dried oregano.

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Marinated Mushrooms

Here is our jar of marinated mushrooms. You can see buts of the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and orange peel floating in there with the mushrooms.

Here is our jar of marinated mushrooms. You can see buts of the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and orange peel floating in there with the mushrooms.

We saw this recipe on one of Lidia Bastianich’s shows on CreateTV. It sounded simple enough and we have some extra mushrooms leftover from the Christmas holiday cooking. We were surprised at how much a pound of mushrooms cooked down so next time we’re going to double the recipe.

The orange peel really adds a nice flavor to the mushrooms and was a pleasant surprise. There is a lot of liquid left over from the vinegar that the mushrooms are cooked and stored in that has a really good mushroom flavor. We’re going to try to re-purpose this into a salad dressing or something like that.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups of white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves (fresh if you have them available)
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (depending on your preferred heat level)
  • 1 pound of small white button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled
  • Peel of 1 orange (peeled with a vegetable peeler)
  • Extra-Virgin olive oil (for tossing)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian Parsley

Instructions

Using a large sauce pan or dutch oven, combine the vinegar, water, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring this mixture to a boil.

while the mixture is coming to a boil, prepare your mushrooms. The goal is to have them be bite-sized, so smaller is best. For any larger mushrooms, cut in half or into quarters.

Once the mixture is boiling, add your mushrooms and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and then add the garlic and orange peel. Allow the mixture to cool in the cooking liquid.

Once cooled, pack the mushrooms into a jar and then pour the cooking liquid over them. Seal the jar and refrigerate. We ate ours after about 4 hours of refrigeration and they were great. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week.

When you’re ready to eat, serve them by placing the mushrooms into a serving bowl and drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Here are our mushrooms after we drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley. They were eaten too fast so I couldn't get a picture of them in a nice clean serving bowl.

Here are our mushrooms after we drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley. They were eaten too fast so I couldn’t get a picture of them in a nice clean serving bowl.

Watermelon-Jalapeno Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

It’s hot outside and what goes better with a hot summer afternoon than watermelon. Well, there are more than a few ways to enjoy your watermelons. We recently bought a large watermelon that was bigger than we expected. Our housekeeper suggested that we make watermelon water, which we did.

Once we tried the watermelon water, we knew we had to try it in an adult beverage so we tried our hand at a margarita and we both think it turned out great.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon diced
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (you can substitute honey)
  • 1 cup tequila,
  • 1/4 cup triple sec.
  • 2 cups of ice
  • 1 jalapeno, cut into 1/4 inch licked
  • 12 to 15 fresh mint leaves (you can substitute fresh basil)

Instructions

Mix the watermelon, lime juice, water, agave, tequila and triple sec in a blender and blend until super smooth. Stir in the ice, half the jalapeno slices and half of the mint leaves. (Do not blend the jalapeno slices, just stir them in with the ice) The remaining jalapeno slices and mint leaves are to garnish your drinking glasses. Stir very well and serve.

If you want your drink a little sweeter you can stir in some additional agave or some sugar. You can also taste your watermelon before you start mixing it. If the watermelon isn’t very sweet, you can throw in a few pieces of cantaloupe to add some natural sweet flavor.

Texas BBQ seasoning rub

Our pantry has over a dozen containers of mixes for meat runb but we’re still always on the lookout for something different. One of our go-to runs is the Ring of Fire rub. We recently had a brisket that we wanted to try something different with. When we looked online, we found a recipe that looked like a great starting point.

Most of the meat rubs we have lean towards the sweet side but this one has some noticeable heat. It’s not going to burn your mouth but it’s definitely going to tingle your tongue.

When we mixed this the first time, the recipe didn’t specify whether to use regular paprika or smoked paprika so we used 5 teaspoons of smoked paprika. That was WAY too much. Cutting it in half with regular paprika gives this mixture a better balance. I’ll also admit we increased the cayenne from 2 teaspoons because we like the heat. If you don’t want it as hot, cut it back to 2 teaspoons.

A final note, the original recipe says 1/2 cup of brown sugar is optional. I think it really needs the sweetness to be authentic to the flavors of Texas and to balance out the mixture. However, that was too much so we cut it in half. As you can see, this is all very subjective and you can play around with the ingredients to find the mix that’s right for you.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions

Mix everything except for the brown sugar very well. Then add your broken sugar. You can use a spoon or whisk but, if you have trouble feeling it mixed well, try putting it into a mixer or coffee grinder.

You can store this is a cool dry place with you other spices and it will last for months.

New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Black eyed pea soup simmering

Black eyed pea soup simmering

If you live in the south, you probably have some sort of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. These little peas are supposed to bring you good luck in the coming year. Legend has it that this tradition comes from the Civil War era when the Northern army didn’t burn the fields of peas as they swept through the South.

I hope you don’t just eat these peas on New Year’s Day because they are really good and should eat them year-round. I have another recipe for black-eyed pea soup but it’s a lot more complicated. For this one, I wanted to make a soup with less steps and just a lot easier to make. I basically start with our favorite soffritto mixture of onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Yes, these are more items than in a traditional soffritto but we like the flavors.

As for the meat in this dish, we happened to find a spiral sliced ham at our local HEB grocery store that was on sale after Christmas so we had to get it. We parted the ham up and used the bone from the ham. The last half or so of the ham wasn’t sliced so we cut up these pieces into bite sized chunks and used these. Without this ham, I would have used sausage and some bacon.

Now, let’s talk about spicy, as in heat. We like it hot! I think a spicy soup is perfect all year round, but especially on a cold winter day (like New Year’s Day). Therefore, we put in 2 jalapenos and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. You can definitely cut back or even eliminate both ingredients if you don’t want it spicy. However, I’d at least put in 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. we buy jalapenos by the dozen and grow our own during the summer so we always have plenty on hand.

To start, get all your vegetables ready.

Vegetables for the soffritto to go into the black eyed pea soup.

Vegetables for the soffritto to go into the black-eyed pea soup.

Cook your vegetables in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.

Vegetable cooking for black eyed pea soup.

Vegetable cooking for black-eyed pea soup.

Once cooked, add your black-eyed peas, liquid, ham bone and ham chunks.

Black eyed pea soup starting to cook.

Black-eyed pea soup starting to cook.

Let it simmer for a couple of hours and then it’s ready for you and your family!

Black eyed pea soup simmering

Black-eyed pea soup simmering

It’s become our tradition to make a black-eyed pea soup on New Year’s Day afternoon while we’re watching college bowl games.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package of black-eyed peas, sorted and soaked overnight
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (you can cut back on this if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 cup ham pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduce the amount if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

The night before you want to make this, rinse your black-eyed peas and then place in a large pot and cover with an inch of water.

The next day, drain your peas and rinse them again in a colander to get out any remaining grit from the peas. They should have swelled up over night.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and then put in your onions. After 2 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Next, add the carrots, celery, bell peppers and jalapenos. Stir well and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the other vegetables are tender.

Add your beans and chicken broth and water. Then add your ham bone and ham pieces.  Next add the cumin, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce. If all your ingredients aren’t covered with the broth and water, add additional water until fully covered. Then bring to a boil. After it starts boiling, reduce your heat to low, put the lid on your Dutch oven, and allow the pot to simmer for at least 2 hours, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. If the water starts to evaporate to the point that it no longer covers the peas, simply add enough water to the pot to cover the peas while they simmer.