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.

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Bacon-Maple-Bourbon-Pecan Pie

Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners deserve a grown-up dessert. That’s why we knew we had to try this recipe when we found it in the monthly newsletter that our realtors send to us. Of course, it wasn’t as fantastic as it could be so we modified it for some extra wow factor. The original recipe is for a Bacon-Maple-Walnut pie. The first thing we did was added the bourbon. We got this idea after watching a cooking show where bourbon was included in a couple different ways into desserts. The pie was great but we couldn’t help comparing it to a pecan pie, so we knew that was the next upgrade for this recipe. We are in Texas after all, so the pecan is always our nut of choice when it’s an option.

Since I mentioned them above and they’re the inspiration for this recipe, here’s the shout out to our realtors, Doug Jacobs & Jeff Mikeska, who sold us our house 18 years ago and still send us their newsletters and calendars. The newsletter they sent back in 2016 had this recipe in the holiday section. Of course, it caught our attention and we had to try it. I’ll also add that they’re great guys that we highly recommend them if you need a realtor in Austin.

Ingredients

Ingredients for the Pie Crust

  • 4 ounces of thin cut bacon strips
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of very cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of dark maple syrup (grade B or 2)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon (go for the good stuff here!)
  • 2 cups of pecans – crushed or halves

Instructions

Instructions for the Crust

NOTE: we usually don’t get as much bacon fat from the bacon used for this recipe as the original recipe calls for. Therefore, we usually use some bacon fat that we have left over from earlier. In case you’re wondering, yes, we have a little container like my Granny used to have where we collect bacon fat anytime we cook bacon. If you don’t have as much as the recipe calls for and you don’t have your own backup reserve, go ahead and substitute with additional shortening.

  1. Fry your bacon in a skillet on medium heat until the bacon is crisp (about 3 to 5 minutes). Transfer the fried bacon to a paper towel.
  2. Save 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan (you’ll put this into the filling), then measure the rest of the left over bacon fat and put it into a heat-safe measuring cup. Let the bacon fat cool for 10 minutes. Then add enough shortening so that you get a total volume of 6 tablespoons (this is also 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons).
  3. Pour flour into a bowl and add the bacon fat from the measuring cup, cutting it in with a fork until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
  4. Mix the 2 tablespoons of cold water and the vinegar and then add it to the flour mixture until it forms a soft, non-sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball, dust with flour and roll into an 11 inch circle. Place the dough in a pie plate.

If you want an easy method to roll out your pie dough, check out this method using a recycled plastic bag: How to roll out pie dough using a plastic bag or wax paper
Instructions for the Filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Beat the eggs, maple syrup, sugars and vanilla extra into a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed. Mix in the reserved 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.
  2. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and put the crumbled bacon into the bowl. Stir in the pecans until incorporated and pour into the pie crust.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, until puffy and brown. There should only be a slight jiggle in the center of the pie when it’s finished cooking. Let pie cool before slicing.

Roasted Autumn Vegetables

We roast vegetables all year-round; however, I’ll be honest that I always look forward to fall when the squashes come into season. This is our first time for this year to use an autumn/winter squash and we’re using a Delicata squash this time. These squash are creamy and the skin is so soft that you don’t have to peel the skin off before you bake them.

Roasted autumn vegetables

Roasted autumn vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 Delicata squash – seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 to 3 carrots – peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices on a bias
  • 2 Russet potatoes – you could also use red or gold. Cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Fennel root – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Sweet Onion – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pinch to a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a light kick!

Instructions

Heat your oven 400 degrees F.

Cut all the vegetables into one inch pieces. The delicata can be cut in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Scoop out the seeds, then cut slices about 1/2 inch. Then, cut these slices into about 1 inch pieces. The main thing is to keep the size of all the vegetables approximately the same so they cook consistently.

A trick to the potatoes is to rinse them in cool water to help them brown easier in the oven.

Mix all the vegetables into a large bowl then add the olive oil, salt, black pepper and pepper flake. Mix well.

Put the vegetable mixture into a large oven roasting pan. If you want to cut down on the amount of ingredients, you can probably fit them all onto a baking sheet. We line the bottom of our roasting pan with foil to make it easier to cleanup when we’re done.

Bake the vegetables for 30 to 35 minutes until all the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

I’ll note that we intentionally under salted so that the vegetables don’t sweat too much. You can sprinkle a little extra salt over the cooked vegetables if you want or add it to your taste at the table.

This should make enough for 4 large servings or 6 side dish servings.

Variations: Depending on what fresh herbs you have on hand and what you’ll be serving this with, you can add some herbs to this. We like to add parsley, sage, rosemary, and/or thyme. Yes, I couldn’t resist the music reference but it’s true. They all work really well with these vegetables.

Piselli e Guanciale – Peas and Bacon

Piselli e guanciale, otherwise known as peas and bacon.

Piselli e guanciale, otherwise known as peas and bacon.

This is another gem of a recipe that comes from my favorite cookbook, Breaking Bread in L’Aquila. We modified this one to substitute bacon and changed the cooking order so that the bacon and tomatoes stay firm.

One of the best parts of this recipe is that it is so simple. We can’t find fresh peas here in Austin, TX, so we always go with the frozen peas. As for the protein, we go with bacon. I mean, who doesn’t like bacon. I know guanciale isn’t the same as bacon but it’s the closest you can find here in Austin. We also found that adding the bacon at the end gives a crispier bacon which gives a nice texture since the rest of the dish is so soft.

We made this batch for a Sunday dinner with friends where we made pasta and mixed the piselli e guanciale with the pasta.

This should serve 6 – 8 people.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of bacon (or guanciale), chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 pound of peas, frozen or fresh
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Start by cooking the chopped bacon in a frying pan. Once it is fully cooked, remove the bacon but leave the oil in the pan. Add your chopped onion to the frying pan with the bacon grease. If you need extra liquid, add the olive oil. You only need the olive oil if you don’t have enough bacon grease to use for your sauted onions. Heat the frying pan with the bacon grease and olive oil over medium-high heat. Once it’s heated, add the onion and saute until the onion starts to turn translucent. This should take about 5 minutes.

Stir the peas into the sauted onions. Continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the peas are warmed and still plump. Now, add the cooked chopped bacon and the tomatoes and mix together. Taste the dish and then season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve warm as a side dish. Alternatively, you can use this mixture as a topping for pasta as a main course.

 

Bacon-Maple-Bourbon Walnut Pie

This twist on a classic pie comes from our realtor’s monthly magazine, American Lifestyle. We decided to add the bourbon to kick it up a notch. It’s the holiday season, so why not take it over the top! The bacon is really the cool element and it really adds an interesting flavor to this pie. In our recipe, we used a light maple syrup instead of the dark. I think the dark will be better but it did taste great. We also over chopped the walnuts and it probably would be better to have the larger pieces of a courser chop for some texture in the pie.

Bacon-Maple-Bourbon Walnut Pie

Bacon-Maple-Bourbon Walnut Pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 4 ounces of thin-cut bacon slices
  • 5 tablespoons of solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of very cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

For the filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of dark maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 cups of coarse chopped walnuts

Instructions

Preheat your over to 350 degrees.

First, make the crust. It’s a simple process similar to the patte brise, except you add BACON! Start by frying the bacon in a skillet on medium heat until they crisp. This should take about 3 to 4 minutes. Once crisp, transfer the cooked bacon slices to a paper towel. Now, save the bacon fat from the pan. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and then put the rest of the leftover bacon fat into a heat-safe measuring cup. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then add in enough shortening so the total volume is 6 tablespoons (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons).

Now that the bacon fat and shortening are ready, pour your flour into a bowl and add the fat from your measuring cup.  Cut this in with a pastry cutter or fork until it resembles coarse cornmeal.

Mix 2 tablespoons of cold water and the vinegar together and then add to the flour mixture until a soft, non-sticky dough forms. Form the dough into a ball, dust it with flour and roll into an 11 inch circle. Place a pie plate in the center and trim the edges.

Now that the pie dough is ready, start on your filling. Beat the eggs together with maple syrup, sugars and vanilla extract into a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed. Mix in the reserved 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and the bourbon.

Crumble the bacon into small pieces in the bowl. Stir in the walnuts and then pour the filling into the pie crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, until puffy and brown. There should only be a slight jiggle in the center. Let cool before slicing.

Grilled Texan Corn Salad

Corn Salad Plate

It’s been a while since I added a post to our blog. To be honest, I’ve started a few posts but ran out of time or didn’t have good pictures to include. I’ll get them posted next time we try the dishes. This post came from an inspiration reading about seasonal eating in Abruzzo, Italy. I had just read the post and went out to uncover our grill. I was planning on grilling sausage and corn-on-the-cob. The post I just read made me think we needed to do something more than plain corn on the cob and then I looked down and saw big, ripe, jalapeno peppers on our plants. The pepper is what got me thinking about seasonal foods here and how to mix them together.

Seasonal cooking here in Texas is a little complicated. Our supermarket’s produce section barely changes throughout the year. We have a very constant selection of just about any produce you could want year round. I think this is partially due to our temperate climate and close proximity to Mexico, which sends us a constant supply of fruits and veggies. Our farmer’s market is the place to go to find fresh seasonal, locally grown produce. The only downside to this is that you pay a hefty premium to get the local produce. Don’t get me wrong, I really want to support the local farmers but I just can’t justify paying twice the price you can find at the local store.

Anyhow, back to my seasonal post, this one contains the flavors of summer in Texas. Fresh corn, jalapenos, tomatoes and cilantro. Living in a condo, we can’t grow our own corn but we do grow tomatoes and peppers. It’s still a little early for tomatoes so the peppers are the only items fresh from our container garden.

Jalapeno Pepper

Ingredients

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 4 or 5 fresh jalapenos
  • 1 red onion (cut in half)
  • 1 handful of cilantro
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

For the salad dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lime juiceFresh Corn

To start, make a rub for your corn by mixing the olive oil, chili powder, smoked paprika and coarse kosher salt together in a small bowl. This combination can be adjusted to fit your taste. Pull the husks off your corn and then coat each one with the rub mixture.

Corn with dressing

Then put the corn on a hot grill. You’re going to cook the corn for 4 to 5 minutes, then turn 1/4 turn. Repeat this 3 times until you’ve completely rotated the corn. This will take 16 to 20 minutes. The kernels will blacken in some places, but that’s OK! It adds lots of flavors to the dish. Every grill is different so you might have to adjust the heat or placement of the corn. Just watch out for flare-ups because you don’t want to get too much char on the corn. Also, this is a great way to cook corn on the cob, so if you don’t want to make the salad, you can stop here and just enjoy the great corn.

After you make your first turn of the corn, add the whole jalapenos and the 2 halves of your onion.

Corn, peppers & onions

The goal for the jalapenos is to blacken the skins but not to completely cook the pepper. Turn them every 3 or 4 minutes until the skin starts turning black. There should still be some firmness to the pepper. For the onion, just cook it for about 5 minutes per side. Like the jalapenos, we’re just trying to give it a little char and grill marks but we still want it to be firm and have texture.

Once each item is done, pull it off the grill. Let them all cool down and rest for a few minutes. It needs to be cool enough to handle so give it at least about 15 minutes to rest and cool.

Grilled veggies

The first thing you want to do is get the peppers ready. We use disposable rubber gloves to pull the blackened skin off the peppers and to pull the seeds veins out of the peppers. I know some people say to do this under water but that just washes the best flavors off the peppers. If you use your bare hands, please make sure to wash them thoroughly before you do anything else, especially before you touch your face! (Yes, I’ve done this and it’s not fun)

Take a knife and cut off the kernels from the corn and put them in a large bowl. Then coarsely chop the peppers, onion and tomatoes into cubes about the size of the corn kernels and add them to the bowl. Now, chop your cilantro and add this to the salad. Corn Salad mixture

You’ll want to add a little dressing to this salad, but just enough to coat without it getting soggy. For this, mix a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of lime juice and then drizzle it over the salad and mix it all together. You’re also going to want to add salt and pepper to taste. We usually wait to add salt and pepper at the table but you can add it at this point, too.

This recipe can be altered many different ways. You can substitute sweet bell peppers for some of the jalapenos to cut down the heat and you could substitute basil or parsley for the cilantro. This is an easy recipe that is sure to please your family and friends.

You’ll also notice that we grilled more corn and peppers than this recipe calls for. I think if you’re going to heat up the grill, get the most out of it. The corn and peppers will store well in the refrigerator until later in the week.