Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Day: Hoppin' John with Collard Greens

Happy 2011! Yesterday was New Year's Day, so what else could I possibly make other than collard greens and black eyed peas? Collards are kind of a neglected green in our house, compared to it's more popular relative, kale. We eat kale at least once if not more times every week. It's actually in the works for two dishes this week. I end up using collards much less frequently, but this dish is one of the several ways that we really enjoy them. This time of year is the best time for the dark leafy greens - they are in season and incredibly healthy. This preparation doesn't overcook the greens, leaving most of their delicious nutrients intact.

Usually, I start this dish earlier in the day or even the night before by preparing my rice and black eyed peas. Sometimes, if I'm making rice earlier in the week I'll just save out a couple of cups of it for use in this recipe later in the week. This really cuts down on prep time when you actually make this for dinner.

However you do it, start off with about 1 1/2 cups of cooked brown rice and 1 1/2 cups of cooked black eyed peas. You can buy them in the can, but I tend to think they are much too mushy that way. Trader Joe's sells them in the refrigerated section already steamed, and those are not bad. Most of the time I just cook them from dry beans, which takes a lot of time but tends to have the best results. This time, I didn't have much extra time and I found a great new item in the grocery store. These black eyed peas are by Melissa's brand (which I love) and are partially pre-cooked. Just put them in a pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes to cook them the rest of the way. The result is perfectly cooked, al-dente peas in a tiny fraction of the time. Nice.

Once you have your rice and peas ready, put a large pot
of salted water on to boil and assemble the rest of your ingredients:

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, divided
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
2-3 shakes liquid smoke
Hot sauce, to taste
2 large bunches of collard greens, washed and chopped
4 slices smart bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups cooked black eyed peas

Whisk together 2 Tbsp. of the vinegar, honey, 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp.chili powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, liquid smoke and hot sauce. I use Tapatio hot sauce for this because it's something I always have around, but you can use whatever kind you like best. Meanwhile, put the collards in the rapidly boiling salted water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tsp. of olive oil and saute the smart bacon, onion, celery, garlic and remaining 1/2 tsp. chili powder. Cook everything for 5-10 minutes until tender. Add the cooked collard greens, 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid, 2 Tbsp. vinegar and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and cook about 10 minutes until greens are tender.

Heat a separate skillet and add the rice and peas, remaining 1/4 cup cooking liquid and the vinegar/honey/spice mixture. Cook until everything is heated through and the liquid is soaked into the rice. At this point, be sure to taste both the rice/peas mixture and the collards mixture. Adjust seasonings as desired. You can serve the collards over the rice or you can mix the entire thing together.

I can't think of a better way to start the year than a delicious and healthy meal of cooked greens and beans and rice. The flavor combination of spicy, tangy, smoky and sweet makes this dish a sure winner. Let's see...maybe one of my New Year's resolutions should be to eat more collards.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving = 1/3 of the rice and beans mixture topped with 1/3 of the collards mixture. 415 calories; 8g fat; 1.9 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 492 mg sodium; 68.9 g carbohydrate; 14.3 g dietary fiber; 25.7 g sugars; 20.2 g protein.

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