Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seasonal Recipe Fun: January

Since I'm getting a very nice day off, I get to play in the kitchen, so I decided to take my own challenge to make something with local, seasonal ingredients to heart when doing so. It's New Year's Day, and there are a lot of traditions associated with foods to eat in the New Year:

In Spain, revelers eat one grape for each stroke of the clock at midnight (and one for each month of the year), with the goal being to swallow the last grape before the last stroke of the clock.

Eating greens at the New Year is a tradition in many countries, mainly because the leaves look like folded money, so it's a symbol of hopeful prosperity in the new year.

Legumes are another symbol of money - here in the south black eyed peas are the big thing. In Italy, it's green lentils, often served with pork which has its own connections to progress, and being lucky.

curried lentil & collard soup atop mashed sweet potatoes

I've taken some of each of these traditions, in my own way. Granted, I don't have any grapes to consume during the count of midnight, but I am enjoying the fruit of the grape in a lovely bottle of Prosecco over the course of the day as a nod to that tradition (see my mimosa post from earlier today).

For the greens, I was able to find local collards, so that satisfied two cravings, both to start out the year with dedication toward more local, seasonal fare and to have collards on New Year's Day!

For the legumes, I prefer lentils over black eyed peas. I've had many a version of Hoppin' John, and they were all very tasty! I just like lentils more, and if you're going for symbolism in projecting prosperity, you can't get more coin-like than the lentil!

And with further seasonal eating in mind, I checked around to see what else was in season that would add to the New Year's Pantry, and I found some very nice sweet potatoes from the area.

Now what to cook? Well the weather today is practically balmy, but it promises to return to winter weather in the coming week, and I've really been in the mood to start working on soups and stews. So my New Year's fare is a lovely soup with collards and lentils, slightly curried in seasonings and served over a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. It suits the weather perfectly, with the warming spices but not too spicy reminding me that it is winter, but with a lightness that doesn't leave an overly stuffed feeling at the end.

While I can't predict my prosperity in the coming year for having eaten these foods, I certainly do feel a great deal of gratitude and appreciation for being here now.

The Soup:
(I didn't take notes to make this into a 'recipe', but the fun thing with soups is that once you make one or two, you get the feeling for measurements - so play around with it!)

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
unrefined olive oil
4-6 cups broth or stock
1-1 1/2 cups green lentils
6 large collard leaves, torn into smaller pieces
1 can chopped tomatoes
optional: corn & green beans (I had some in the freezer)
seasonings (to taste, or somewhere between 1 tsp - 1 tbsp each):
curry powder
black cumin, ground
chili powder

saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, and once softened, add the rest of the ingredients, making sure you have enough liquid to cover everything in the pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer until lentils are tender, tasting for seasoning.

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