This year I’m making a couple of traditionally inspired dishes for New Years Eve. The first dish is called Hom Big-Jon, a play on Southern Style Hoppin’ John. It’s supposed to have a penny somewhere in it for the lucky person who finds it in his bowl, but I can never bring myself to add one. Hoppin’ John is a very traditional Southern New Years dish and like everything else, it’s been transformed by my life here. Most obvious is the Thai influence on the dish (see the ingredients). And Thai folks apparently like nicknames: “Hom” means “pleasant aroma” and a “Big-Jon” is a “big, big man who lies at the bottom of a disused mineshaft” according to a fellow named Boonie who lives in Thailand. So this Hoppin’ John landed himself at the bottom of a disused mineshaft (or Fairbanks in my case) and let me tell you, Hom Big-Jon smells delicious.
- 3 cans of black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 of a red, yellow, and orange pepper, diced
- 1/3 – 1/2 of a red onion
- 1 finger of ginger, minced
- a handful of cilantro, destemmed and partially chopped
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of Marukan citrus marinade (or the juice of 1 lime)
- 1 cup of seasoned gourmet rice vinegar (Marukan)
- 1 tsp salt
Let this sit overnight if you can. The flavors really mellow and sing after it marinates. Actually, if it sits for two or three days, it’s pure genius, or so the Hot Boyfriend tells me, but he might be biased. Wait, no. It’s genius.
The other dish is Plain Ol’ Beet Greens, which hopefully represents more money in the new year, and I pick beet greens because the red stems remind me of passion, a thing I always want in my life. But, there is another reason why I’m cooking this dish—I really shouldn’t eat the Hom Big-Jon. The rice vinegar is loaded with sugar and, well… I have a confession: I don’t eat sugar or flour. Ever. OK, I’ve slipped up here and there in very small amounts, but for the most part I studiously avoid those two things. The recipes you see here that use either of those ingredients are things I cook for my family and friends; I never eat them myself. I rely on others to tell me if a dish is good or not. If my son’s eyes light up and he asks for more of the Danish Grandmother’s Sugar Cookies, then I know the recipe is worth something.
I stopped eating sugar and flour almost 4 years ago when I was diagnosed with something called Polycystic Ovarian Disease. Once I changed my diet, the ugly symptoms that go with this disease virtually disappeared. It’s no coincidence that my obsession with food began around the same time; I’d always been a food connoisseur of sorts, but it took on a life of its own when I began to cook all of my own food. Processed food is just out of the question on this kind of diet, so I had to start cooking every day and I had to be very creative about it. And I refuse to call my foodways “Low-Carb” or “Gluten Free”—I have a maniacal distaste for those monikers. Good food is good food and I just happen to eat the kind with no sugar or flour.
OK, so another confession: those “slip ups” I mentioned earlier tend to occur in close succession between November and December. I may have had some stuffing at Thanksgiving. And mashed potatoes. And over Christmas I may or may not have eaten the Danish Grandmother’s Foodgasm Inducing Super Ham Balls (which had more than one ingredient I’m supposed to stay away from). But of course, you can bank on the fact that every New Year’s Resolution tends to involve being more conscientious about what I put in my mouth. Which means that my recipe for Plain Ol’ Beet Greens is legal fare.
Plain Ol’ Beet Greens
- fresh greens from 6-8 large beets, remove the larger part of the stems
- 3-4 cups of water
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 4-5 pieces of bacon and drippings
- 1/3 of a sweet Vidalia onion
Rinse the beet greens and remove the woody stems. Chop the greens in to bite size pieces and in a large pot, combine the greens, water, and vinegar.
In a frying pan, cook the bacon and remove it once it’s done. There should be 2-3 tablespoons of drippings left. I usually have some extra in the fridge, but that’s my Southern upbringing at work.
Saute the onions, and once the greens are dark and limp, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and add them to the saute pan. If you want, chop up the bacon and add it to the greens. Sometimes I’ve already eaten the bacon while the onions are sauteing.
Eat it until your wallet grows fat, or until you do from all the bacon grease.
Also, use the remaining vinegar and water to cook the beets. Delicious. More so if you let it reduce before serving.