More culinary discovery for me.  I think I had heard of Hoppin’ John before but wasn’t sure if it was something you ate or the unfortunate side effect of something you ate. 

Of course now I know that this is one of those dishes that appears, in some form, in many many countries and traditions (it’s rice and beans folks).  In the southern US I’m told it’s eaten on New Year’s Day to ensure prosperity throughout the year.  Take note: if you are thinking of adapting this for your own tribe you will have to think of a new name.  Wikipedia says that Cubans use black beans and call it “Hoppin’ Juan;” Brazilians use black turtle beans and call it Feijoada (which Wikipedia hilariously tells you is pronounced “fejʒuˈadɐ.”  What is that, a “3”?).

Miraculously, my chain grocery store had fresh black-eyed peas in the produce section.  I used a packaged ham steak from the part of the store that offers “meat” of dubious provenance injected with…stuff…then mechanically masticated (it means chewed.  Get your mind out of the gutter!), and re-shaped into comfortingly familiar protein shapes.   

You know, like this:

Which, you can rest assured, has “no preservatives.”  It does have hygroscopic spraydried powder though, so if your doctor has told you to cut back, consider yourself warned.

Where was I?  Oh, Hoppin’ John.  We LOVED it.  So good, so comforting, so refreshingly lacking in spraydried anything.  I thought the suggestion of topping it with Sara’s Heirloom Tomato Salsa a bit odd but it was wonderful (I used cherry tomatoes since the real things were not quite ready yet).  Can’t wait to make it again and maybe next time we’ll have leftovers so I can make Hoppin’ John Cakes.

Anytime Hoppin’ John

Adapted from Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen
Serves 4-6
2 cups fresh or frozen black-eyed peas
3-4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 lb. smoked ham, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored seeded, and diced
1 cup long-grain white rice (preferably Carolina Gold)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
Heirloom Tomato Salsa (see below)
Place the peas in a saucepan with the water and bring to a low boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until just crisp-tender.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a separate large saucepan over medium-high.  Add the ham and cook for 2-3 minutes, until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno and stir until vegetables are tender, 3-4 minutes.  Add the rice, thyme, and salt and stir until rice is coated.  Add the broth and stir to mix, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Drain the peas and add to the pan with the rice; continue to cook, covered, for another 10 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is fluffy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, cilantro, and red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm, topped with the salsa.
Heirloom Tomato Salsa
2 heirloom tomatoes (about 1 lb.), cored and chopped, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons diced white onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve.