Sunday, January 11, 2015

Blue Stew - Not Everything Works

Recently I got out a favorite wintertime recipe, Cordovan Farmwife Stew. Recipe follows:

Cordovan Farmwife Stew

1 cup dry chickpeas
1 medium onion chopped
2 large cloves garlic peeled and cut up
2 quarts water
salt to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 head green cabbage, cored and chopped
fresh ground pepper to taste

Soak chickpeas overnight and drain. Bring to a boil, add chickpeas, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and cumin. Simmer two hours. Add 4 oz meaty bacon or pork belly, diced. Continue to cook until chickpeas are soft, an hour or more. Add cabbage, cook another hour. Add salt if needed, and pepper.


So I soaked the chickpeas, cut up a purple onion, and simmered. Added the pork belly (local, humanely raised, delicious stuff!), simmered. All good. I did not have green cabbage on hand, and we had 6 inches of snow on the ground and a long cold drive to the store. So I used purple cabbage. Oops! Don't do that.

The stew turned a rather unappetizing shade of lilac. Smelled just as good as ever. I ate a bowl, though it was something of an effort. It's surprising how our expectations of color in our food make such an apparent difference in taste. Think green ham (or beer, for that matter). Or a gray apple, under the pretty red skin. Eeeeww!

The worst was yet to come. After a stint in the frig, the rest of the stew was blue, the kind of colonial blue that used to be so popular in kitchens. The yellowish chickpeas poked through a sea of strange greyish-blue sauce. The bits of pork belly were blue. Something like the blue soup from the movie Bridget Jones' Diary. Everyone was too polite not to eat it. At least I was the only sufferer from my blue stew.

Not wanting to waste it, I warmed a bowl for another meal. It became a sad sort of purple color. I abandoned the bowl, half-eaten. Even the delicious taste of the stew itself could not overcome that color.

I took the rest out to the chickens, which do not have my unreasoning prejudices about food color. So it did not go to waste totally. And I learned something: not everything works. Some substitutions should not be made. If I want to eat red cabbage, I need to use it in a red cabbage dish: sauteed with slices of apple and onion. Or as a tasty slaw.

Another tasty winter dish for your enjoyment (no cabbage involved!):

Hoppin' John

1 cup dry black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, or 2 cups fresh black-eyed peas
1/2 lb slab bacon (or side pork, or slices if you don't have slab)
1 cup white rice (I use basmati)
1/2 medium onion, sliced
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Put slab bacon in kettle with 2 quarts water, add black-eyed peas. Simmer 45 minutes, until peas are nearly done. Add rice, salt to taste. Simmer 20 minutes. Now use a slotted spoon and lift the peas and rice from the water into a large bowl. Fish out the pork, and slice it thinly. Put the sliced and onion into a small skillet, and saute until the fat starts to cook out and the pork firms up. Check peas and rice for salt, add pepper as desired, stir in the pork and onion.

Feel free to substitute brown rice for white. I like white basmati in this dish. A long-grain brown rice would work better for texture than a short grain sticky rice. If you use the brown rice, soak it overnight too, so it can cook with the other ingredients.