Well, another year is over. Hard to believe. Some people had a very good year. Others had a very bad year. For most of us, it was some good and some bad. But that’s life, isn’t it?
I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year. May you be safe, healthy, and prosperous. May you enjoy every moment and appreciate all the good things that you have in your life, and even some of the not-so-good things because, after all, if everything is hunky-dory all the time, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good things.
I hope that all of you get in 2013 what you want out of life. As for me, I’ve always worked very hard and I believe that the things you want most are worth working hard for. I’ve particularly spent the past couple of years going beyond what I thought were my limits and knew was my comfort zone in order to achieve the things I wanted. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping that 2013 proves to be the year I grab the brass ring. All I need is that right moment, that right opportunity, and the right person who will look at me and what I have to offer and realize that I’m worth a shot.
In that vein, I’m going to stick to a common New Year’s Eve tradition and have lentils and spinach for dinner. The lentils are for good luck and the spinach represents money.
Eating lentils on New Year’s Eve is an old Italian custom and is often eaten with cotechino, a type of sausage. Similar to this a tradition in the U.S. South, where black-eyed peas are cooked with ham hock or bacon for New Year’s Day. This dish, which also calls for rice, is called Hoppin’ John. Both of these dishes derive from the Medieval European belief that eating beans on New Year’s would bring good luck, and different beans have been used in different countries. A co-worker, who is from Panama, told me that a tradition in her country is to set the table with the following items: A bowl of black-eyed peas (aka field peas) with coins mixed into it, a small glass of water, a glass of milk, and a glass of honey. This is all supposed to bring good luck and prosperity.
So, with wishes for a wonderful 2013, here are my recipes for lentils with spinach and Hoppin’ John. Happy New Year!
Lentils with Spinach
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus more
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
½ teaspoon paprika
1 lb. spinach, washed and chopped
Black pepper to taste
Bring the broth to a boil in a medium pot. Add the lentils, bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until lentils are tender. Drain over a bowl and reserve the broth. Remove the bay leaf.
In a wide skillet, heat the oil; add the garlic and sauté 1 minute over medium heat. Sprinkle in the paprika then quickly add the spinach. Add the salt and stir. Cook just until spinach is wilted. Add the lentils and continue cooking to blend flavors. If it gets dry, add a little of the reserved broth. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve as is or with rice.
Makes 4 servings.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon sea salt plus more
Black pepper to taste
Soak the black-eyed peas overnight with enough water to cover by 3 inches.* The next day, drain and rinse the beans.
In a medium pot, heat the oil and add the onion; sauté until translucent. Stir in the chili powder and cook one more minute. Add the beans, rice, broth, bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, partially covered, until rice is cooked and beans are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 8 servings.
*If you can’t soak overnight, place the beans in a pot with water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 1 to 2 hours. Drain and rinse and proceed with recipe where it goes into the pot with the broth, bay leaf, etc.