Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

This dish is delicious! Just what I needed on a cold and windy night. I am a big fan of leafy greens, and the collards at the market were looking quite beautiful. The thick, dense leaves of collard greens are packed with nutrition, boasting terrific amounts of folate (for all you mamas-to-be out there), calcium, cancer fighting phytochemicals, and minerals. I personally believe that collards are what Popeye was eating, not spinach; they seem to have a strengthening power that is un-explainable. Though both black eyed peas and collard greens are particularly popular in the southern United States, they are used all over the world. Black eyed peas are actually native to North Africa, and collards are quite popular in the Mediterranean. Soaking the black eyed peas shortens their cooking time, but not by that much, so it is not necessary. The older your peas, the longer the cooking time. Mine only took about 30 minutes with soaking, but I have had black eyed peas take almost 1 1/2 hours, so be patient if need be.

My recipe is not traditional; there is no bacon or ham. I added a small amount of diced preserved tomato for color and a little sweet/acidity dynamic, which worked really well. A splash of fresh squeezed lemon juice right at the end is just perfect.
Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens
Serves 4 as a main course with rice

-1 cup dried black eyed peas, soaked in 3 cups water for 6 hours to overnight, floating and discolored peas discarded
-1 bunch collard greens, washed, thick ribs removed, and leaves sliced
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 small yellow onion, diced small
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 preserved plum tomatoes, diced
-Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (less than half of a lemon)
-salt and fresh ground white pepper

Place the peas in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook, skimming any scum that rises to the surface, until the peas are tender but still holding there shape, about 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the age of the peas. Drain and rinse again in cold water. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the sliced collard greens and cook until just tender and bright green, about 3-5 minutes. Drain immediately and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add in the onion and saute until beginning to soften and slightly brown, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add in the garlic and tomato. Saute another 2-3 minutes. Add in the peas and collard greens and a little salt and fresh ground white pepper. Heat through, adding a little water or vegetable stock if the mixture seems too dry. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, fresh ground white pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve hot as is, or with brown basmati rice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vegetarian Feast

Spring Rolls woth Sesame Dipping Sauce
Roasted Vegetables with Black Olive Tapenade

Roasted Pepper Crostinis with Fontina Cheese and Arugula

Ellissa and Me with Roasted Beet, Feta Cheese and
Walnut Salad in the Background

These last two weekends were my annual Vegetarian Cuisine class that I teach for Cuesta College. We had a great time, as always, and the food was delicious! This year was extra special, as I had a gorgeous little assistant with me (my daughter Ellissa, see above). I just wanted to write a quick post and say thankyou to everyone that participated in the class, great job!

Monday, February 2, 2009

High Levels of Mercury Found in Corn Syrup

I receive e-mail updates from the OCA (Organic Consumers Association), and an interesting, if not frightening, article was recently posted regarding the mercury content found in high fructose corn syrup. According to the article, which is based from the original article written by the scientific journal Environmental Health, mercury was found in nearly 50% of tested commercial high fructose corn syrup samples. A separate study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in one third of 55 of top name brand products that list high fructose corn syrup as the first or second ingredient. These brands included Quaker, Hershey's, Kraft, and Smukers.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is found in almost every processed or packaged food product. Soda, obviously, is by far the worst since it is purely HFCS with water. Other common foods containing HFCS include packaged lunch meats, canned soups, breakfast cereals, bottled salad dressings, and even yogurt. Many of these foods are popular among our children, and are overused in our school systems and institutions. According to the above report, most teenagers take in above 80% of average levels daily of HFCS. Average American daily intake is a whopping 12 teaspoons, which is equal to 1/4 cup. Please follow the link above to read the report which is full of information.