About the dish
Good beans & greens are so tasty and fulfilling, with a rich combination of flavors and a heartiness that fills you up on a cold day. As a main dish, this goes very well with some fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and/or a side of real southern cornbread. The recipe below is our adaption of a recipe for Hoppin’ John from the excellent Sundays at Moosewood cookbook.This can easily be made vegetarian or omnivorous; just leave out the meat and substitute vegetable broth if you so desire; there’s enough flavor to go around either way.
About the ingredients
Black-eyed peas would be the standard, traditional base of this meal, and we often use them. In the photo above, however, we used our own farm-grown mixed heirloom dried beans, a delicious blend of many varieties, colors, and flavors (see below). If you have access to high-quality mixed beans like these (often sold as soup bean mixes), by all means use them to get the best flavor. Otherwise, stick with black-eyed peas and you won’t go wrong. In either case, dried will be far superior to canned.
The mixed greens are also important; ideally you’ll want collards, kale, and mustard, in a 2:1:1 ratio. Don’t overdo the mustard greens unless you really like them, but in smaller quantities they’ll add an important flavor.
Depending on the season, good tomatoes may or may not be available. We use our winter heirloom tomatoes, but canned or home-preserved are an effective substitute.
With regards to meat, chopped bacon gives a nice flavor, though we usually use diced cubes of our own goat meat. Any red meat will do, even ground, but keep the chunks small. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, the meat should serve as a “condiment to the vegetables”, not the main attraction. Smaller chunks will also cook and soften faster; they should be melt-in-your-mouth tender by the end.
This is my best approximation of ingredient quantity; I usually judge such things by instinct and taste. Adjust to your needs.
4 cups cooked mixed beans or black-eyed peas
2 onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 hot peppers, minced
Chopped bacon or other meat, to taste
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp paprika
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
up to 1 quart broth (meat or vegetable)
1 big bowl chopped fresh fall greens (mustard, collards, and kale)
cubed or grated hard cheese (sharp/smoked cheddar is good)
1 cup cooked rice per serving
If using dried beans or peas, cook ahead of time according to your preferred method (there are several). Aim for about 4 cups cooked.
Saute the onions, garlic, meat, hot peppers, and spices until softening and aromatic. Use some olive oil if you’re not using bacon. Mix in the tomatoes and cook a few minutes longer. Add some broth and beans and simmer for at least half an hour. You want all the flavors mixed nicely, and the meat very tender. This can stay on the stove for far longer if you desire. Add more broth as needed to keep the consistency near a thick soup.
When you’re twenty minutes from eating, start the rice cooking. When you’re ten minutes from eating, stir in the chopped greens and restir occasionally to ensure that they wilt and mix in thoroughly. You may or may not need to add salt, depending on your sources of meat and beans (bacon and canned beans will both add significant amounts of salt, as will the cheese). A bit of black pepper can’t hurt.
Serve over rice with a healthy topping of grated/cubed hard cheese, and ideally sides of fried green tomatoes & okra, and cornbread.