Yellow Rice and Peas


I promised Stacie I'd tell her about yellow rice and peas although there's really not much to tell. I buy it pre-made in the store and it makes itself in like 20 seconds. Yes, one can make their own Mexican-style saffron rice but I've never had good luck with the recipes. I think it's the turmeric. Turmeric and I do not get along.

So Vigo brand it is, Goya also makes a nice mix. For the last five minutes of cooking I throw in half a bag of frozen peas. Redman is very passionate about yellow rice and peas, it's one of his very favorite things for dinner. I love it for sheer convenience but also because it goes with just about anything: it can be the backbone of a vegetarian meal, or it cozies nicely up to roast chicken, breaded chicken, grilled fish, grilled shrimp, meat loaf, tuna cakes. It's the little black dress of your pantry.

I have a soft spot for rice and peas myself. My junior year of high school, I went for two weeks to La Rochelle, France on an exchange program. My host student was named Christophe Roland. He had a reputation as a punk and I didn't know how we were going to get along. We had zero in common yet within two days we were brother and sister. He loved American music and I spent many an hour mooching his cigarettes and translating lyrics for him.

"Listen, what is this," he said, putting on Modern English. "These words...making love to you was never second best. What does that mean?"

I gave him a look. "What does making love mean?"

"I know what making love means, stupid," he said, laughing out a cloud of smoke. "What does he mean was never second best?"

Christopher was something of a loner within the Lycée. His best friend was in his twenties and lived alone in the center of La Rochelle. Christophe took me to his apartment one night and the two young men cooked for me. I was not allowed to help. They were like Oscar and Felix. It was hilarious, and also touching, to watch them collide and bicker in the kitchen, earnestly working to make this meal. Finally they marched out, beaming, bearing grilled fish with a side dish of rice and peas. I was seventeen and felt I had arrived among the ultra hip.

That dinner was not second best.

Green Beans with Lemon Pepper Oil

The full name of this recipe (another from Fast, Fresh & Green) is "Provencal Green Beans with Lemon-Pepper Oil and Herbed Sea Salt." It sounds fancier than it is and I did not stay completely true to the recipe for a few reasons. 

1) The lemon-pepper infused olive oil sounded awesome, but my kids would not eat anything that spicy. Green beans are one of the surefire veggies that they will wolf down, so I try not to get too adventurous with them.

2) The herbed sea salt is made by combining the salt with lavender buds. I have no more lavender in my garden, but even if I did, I'm not sure it would go over well. The alternative was to use crushed rosemary, but Jeeps has a funny thing with rosemary.

So I will give you the full recipe here, but just know my version was green beans tossed with lemon olive oil and sea salt. They were perfect alongside some grilled apple sausages and pan-roasted red and blue potatoes. They'd also be great just as an appetizer.

The sausages, by the way, were served with cider-beer mustard made by my amazing friend Becky (who brought me the pyrex dishes full of barbecued chicken, potato salad, and love). We attended her family's incomparable Oktoberfest a few weekends ago, and I left her house with a ziplock bag of bratwurst and 3 darling little jars of cider mustard, cranberry mustard, and dill relish.

Provencal Green Beans with Lemon-Pepper Oil & Herbed Sea Salt

The lemon-pepper oil is made by combining 2 tbsp of olive oil with a tablespoon of lemon zest, and 8 grinds of the pepper mill. Make this first and let it sit for 15-2o minutes to let the flavors infuse the oil. The oil keeps well in the fridge so double or triple the recipe if you like and use it on grilled fish or any steamed vegetable.

The herbed sea salt is made by combining 1/4 tsp chopped fresh lavender buds or rosemary leaves, with 1/2 tsp sea salt. Use a coarse salt like fleur de sel.

Then you simply steam or blanch a pound of green beans until they are tender to the bite but still have their nice green color. Drain, let cool a few minutes, then transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle most of the lemon-pepper oil over them.  Sprinkle with some of the herb salt. Taste a bean and add still more salt if you like ("Be generous!" says Susie Middleton).

They went so fast I could barely snap a picture.

On the subject of lemons, its essential oil is a great thing to keep around the house. Jeeps likes to mix vinaigrette into hummus and add a few drops of lemon EO to make a really tasty salad dressing. Mixed with baking soda and vinegar, it makes a great all-purpose cleaner. And I love to use it when I make soap, especially blended with geranium and rose oils.

The team at has a great article about the benefits of using lemon essential oil. You can read it here.

Creamed Spinach

At the famed Smith & Wollensky's steakhouse in New York, the creamed spinach is to die for. The steak almost becomes an after thought. Almost.

This is one of the few instances where I make a side dish for the precise reason that the kids will not eat any of it, which makes more for Jeeps and I. It's great not only as a side dish, but as an interesting appetizer. Make a big dish of it and serve with slices of bread, toasted or plain. Creamed spinach on toast is a treat.

Creamed Spinach

  • 1 bag baby spinach (seems like overkill but trust me)
  • 1 cup milk (any kind—whole is naughty, skim works fine, anywhere in between is inconsequential)
  • 1 tsp peppercorns (black, white, red, melange—whatever you have. I had white)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (this is the essential ingredient, don't skip it)
  • 2 tbsp half-and-half
  • 1 medium onion, diced

Combine milk, peppercorns, bay leaves and cloves in small saucepan. Warm over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into small bowl or measuring cup, set aside. Discard solids.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in milk mixture. Whisk another 3 minutes until sauce thickens. Stir in salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and half-and-half. Set aside, covered.

Heat remaining butter and a splash of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 bag of spinach; cover skillet momentarily until leaves wilt. Add the other half bag. Turn with tongs until all leaves are wilted. Pour sauce over spinach, stir to combine.  



Those kids don't know what they're missing. And I'm glad to keep it that way.

How to Have Your Pudding if You Don't Eat Your Meat

How?  HOW?! Why with individual corn puddings, of course.

I took a walk through some other recipe notebooks I have, mostly things torn out of Martha Stewart Living, and came across this nifty one for corn puddings. Though the recipe calls for fresh corn, I just use frozen, and this time I added peas to them. I suppose you could even do frozen vegetable medley, too. Why not?

Why Not Corn Puddings?

  • 4 ears fresh corn or 1 1/2 cups frozen (or mix of corn and peas) thawed and drained well
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne

Fill up your teakettle and get it going on a back burner; you need boiling water for this later.

If using fresh corn, cut kernels off cobs and set aside.

Heat oven to 325. Spray 8 6-oz ramekins with Pam and set aside (I actually do own ramekins, which I love, but I only have 5 in the 6-oz size. The batter ended up filling all 5 and then a larger 8-oz one)

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour

In a mixing bowl, whisk the corn, egg yolks, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Add the melted butter and whisk to combine.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form (or use the immersion blender that your FABULOUS SEESTER gave to you for Christmas, oh thank you thank you thank you, I love it so much that I have to name it. Seriously, this thing rocks. Before, to beat two measly egg whites I'd have to drag out the Kitchen Aid. No more!)

Fold egg whites into corn mixture

Pour the mixture into ramekins, distributing corn and batter evenly.  Don't overfill—leave 3/4" at the top to allow puddings to rise.

Place ramekins in a baking dish. Fill the pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Transfer baking dish to oven, bake until puddings are puffed and golden, 50 to 55 minutes. I took mine out at 50 but they could've used that extra 5 minutes. Using a potholder, transfer ramekins to individual saucers to serve.

Best served piping hot if you want ultimate "puff". As they cool, they will deflate somewhat but still be delicious.

Stewed Apples

Stewed apples serve a few purposes:

  • They are a great side to any kind of roast but roast pork in particular. They're like besties
  • They can be served hot, room temperature, or cold.
  • Kids seem to like them.
  • The leftovers are very nice warmed up and spooned over vanilla ice cream. Or oatmeal, if you're one of those people.
  • They use up the stash of questionable apples in the colander. You know, the ones that nobody wants to eat because of a few bruises, but tossing them seems such a waste. Now the dilemma is solved. Bruises matter not. Even punky apples may contribute. Just peel them and gouge away any truly nasty bits, we do have standards here.
  • Raisins make a perfect counterpart to apples. You could experiment with any kind of dried fruit—cherries, cranberries, etc—but if you start stewing prunes, expect an intervention.

Stewed Apples

Start some water boiling in a saucepan with a couple broken cinnamon sticks and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you, like me, are a cardamom lover and have pods on hand, add two or three, but remember how many because you have to pick them out later.

Peel 4-5 apples.  ore and slice into wedges. How thick depends on your preference. Thinner slices will fall apart more easily, thicker gives you more "chunk".

Add apples to boiling water along with 1/2 cup of raisins. Add a few shakes from your ground cinnamon jar. Stir well, then cover, lower heat and let simmer 10-15 minutes.

Drain the fruit in a colander. Discard the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods if you used them. Slide into serving dish until you are ready for it. It will wait quietly and not disappoint you.

Once I made this using a lemon herbal teabag in the water. It totally worked. You could also peel and slice up some fresh ginger to give it that kind of kick. This is really nice to have at Thanksgiving, as a companion to cranberry sauce.

You can also make a lot and freeze it. What more could you ask for?

Hoppin' John

This is not true hoppin' John. One, it has neither bacon nor sausage. Two, it has a host of other ingredients that have no business in authentic hoppin' John, but which I add to make it appeal to the shorter people who live in this house. Still it makes a great side dish or even a main course if you are in a vegetarian state of mind. I served it over rice tonight, along with roasted broccoli and brown-sugar glazed salmon. Along with my apologies and all due respect to the authorities on southern cooking. Think of it as a lighter, keener hoppin' John. Skippin' John. You might even call it Dancin' John, although I don't know if he'd appreciate that.

Hoppin' John

  • 1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn 
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander

Heat olive oil and a pat of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrot, and red pepper. Saute another 5 minutes. Add cumin, coriander and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional). Add black-eyed peas and corn, stir to combine. Lower heat, cover, and cook another ten minutes. Before serving, add some chopped scallions and chopped parsley. Serve over white rice.