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Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas

January 26, 2011

I love it when my grocery store plans my dinner menu for me.

You know … the way they strategically place the cornbread mixes next to the cans of beans (for chili) and the caramel apple dip in the fruit section.

Not that I bought any of that stuff.

What I ran into was a bag of black eyed peas.  Peas were not on my list.  So I strolled on by (I shop on a mission).  I put on the brakes, though, when I sped by the collard greens.  I made a right turn, did the loop-de-loop and snagged the peas, bagged a bunch of greens, and had a new dinner plan.

People have compared the smell of greens cooking to “old tennis shoes.”  I just don’t think that’s true.  And that’s not because I’m Southern born and bred.  I don’t even have a Southern accent.  And I don’t think that my parents ever even cooked this meal in my house when I was a little Branny.

But there’s one critical ingredient that allows me to eat greens (of any sort, really).  Vinegar.  That splash of vinegar onto your meal after you plate the greens is critical.  Any kind will do: hot pepper, red wine, balsamic.

One Year Ago: Black Eyed Pea Masala (I guess I ran into these peas in the produce section exactly a year ago, too!)

Spicy Collard Greens (adapted from here)
3 bunches of collards, stems removed and chopped into ribbons
2 15 oz cans black eyed peas (I cooked 1.5 cups of dried peas)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup wine (I used white)
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or deep frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and pepper and all of the herbs and spices except the salt. Stirring frequently, cook the spices in the oil for several minutes.  Add the collard greens and saute, coating the greens thoroughly in the spices and oil.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the greens begin to wilt. Add all of the remaining ingredients and cover. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the greens are tender. Stir regularly to make sure ingredients don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle with vinegar when serving.


Ethiopian Stew

January 23, 2011

You know how when you move you get really excited about learning about your new neighborhood?  And you just can’t wait to find new favorite places and become the new “regulars” to some retail establishment?

And you know how then you begin to miss where you moved from, that comfort, that ease?  And you start to regret not visiting X, Y, and Z more often?  And you realize how you didn’t take advantage of this or that?

I’m at that stage now.  And it has more to do with missing the restaurants (and grocery stores) of the old home than really anything else.  I mean, Lowe’s is Lowe’s, right?

If you ask the Omnivore if he likes Ethiopian cuisine, he’ll say “YES!”

If you ask the Omnivore if he wants to go eat Ethiopian cuisine, he’ll say “NO!”

You see, he only wants to eat it once per year.  Which means when we lived near an excellent Ethiopian restaurant, we only ate there about 4 times.  And now I’m craving it and it is far away and I’m regretting that I didn’t put my foot down and demand to eat there once per month.  Well, I was regretting it.  Until I made this recipe.  And all was right again.

One Year Ago: Whole Wheat bread in 5 minutes

Ethiopian Stew (adapted from here)
* this is not spicy as written.  If you prefer hotter foods, add 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups split peas, well-rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1 onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 cup diced tomato (fresh or canned)
2 cups cut green beans (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt

Pressure cooker method:

Place all ingredients in a pressure cooker and mix well. Test the broth to see if it is spiced to your liking, and adjust accordingly. Close lid and bring up to pressure over high heat. When pressure is reached, cook for 15 mins on low. Remove from heat and let pressure drop. Open lid, mix well, and serve.

Crock pot method: Place all ingredients in the crockpot.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Looking for an injera recipe?  Check this post.

Lemony Lentils

January 18, 2011

You know, I’m not the only published author around here.

It may look like the cat is sitting on any old book, but he’s not.  He is sitting on MY HUSBAND’S newly published book.  Yes, that’s write right.  He’s on Amazon.  Obviously, I’m proud of him.  And to show my appreciate for his hard work, I hosted a party for the Omnivore.

The party was themed to focus on foods that start with the letters P, L, and C since (as you can see from the photo) those letters are part of the subject matter of the book.  Only teachers will recognize this topic as something imporant.  That’s okay.  Stick with me, there’s a really good recipe around the corner.

I was having trouble coming up with foods that start with the letter L.  I ended up serving lentils with roasted peppers and lemon squares. Both were hits; believe me.  But you know what might have been better?  Combining the two.

I wish I had made this recipe for the party.  It was just wonderful.  Served hot or cold, the lentils jump out of their normally “earthy” stereotype and into a bright and fresh occasion.

ps. For more information on the Omnivore and his education services, visit

One Year Ago: Mac and Cheese with Squash and Peas

Lemony Lentils (inspired by this recipe)
1 cup lentils
1 lemon (juice and zest)
3 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 onion
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add lentils.  Cook about 20 minutes, until soft by not mushy.  Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, saute onion with salt and cumin.  Zest the lemon and add zest to onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes.  When lentils are nearly done, add onion mixture to lentil pot.  Cook down until most of the water is evaporated and lentils are tender (but not mushy!!!).  Squeeze juice from the zested lemon into pot and stir lentils.

Serve over rice or greens.

Roasted Bell Peppers

January 13, 2011

Hi, my name is Branny, and I’m a serial under-browner.

You want bubbly, golden and brown in some spots, cheese on your chicken parmiginia?  Yeah.  Look elsewhere.  Sure, I’ll put it under the broiler, and then I’ll freak out and pull it out *just* when the cheese looks like plastic.

Appealing.  I know.

The Omnivore?  He’s a serial over-browner.  He likes burnt toast, burnt popcorn, blackened pancakes.  Once he browned his cupcakes.  He regretted that one.

The only time I can effectively brown food is when I’m making roasted bell peppers.  Because if they don’t get black, those skins aren’t coming off!

I think a lot of people think that roasted peppers are something that must be purchased in the pickle aisle of your grocery store.  Well change that mentality right now.

These suckers are easy to bang out.  And build confidence when it comes to effectively using your broiler.

One Year Ago: Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies

Roasted Red Peppers
Bell peppers

Preheat broiler to HI.

Wash bell peppers.  Remove core by slicing each side off the inner core.  Lay sides on top of a cutting board and using your palm or a spatula, apply pressure to the cut pepper so that it splits in some parts and flattens.  Place flattened peppers on a baking sheet.  Broil bell peppers for about 8 minutes, peeking occasionally, until skin is blistered.

Place cooked peppers in a tupperware (with a lid) for 15 minutes to cool and steam.  Skins are easily removed.  Use as desired.

Canned Tomato Comparison

January 11, 2011

I am constantly fighting the battle of being frugal but not cheap.  I have the impulse to not spend my money, and if forced to, purchase the cheapest option.

Often times, that is okay.  In the case of toilet paper, it is not (the Omnivore taught me that lesson.  Thanks, hon!).

I am growing and learning how to spend money more freely and recognizing when buying the most expensive option is actually better.

Canned tomatoes are something that I use a lot of.  Give me an onion, a can of tomatoes, and my spice cabinet and I’ll give you 7 different dinners for each night of the week.

By the way, have you ever seen the canned tomato options at your nearest supermarket?  Who knew that something seemingly so basic could come in so many incarnations.  Naturally, I have the tendency to buy the cheapest variant.  And for so long, I never gave it two thoughts.  When was I ever actually even eating the tomatoes without gussying them up with spices, vegetable additions, and the like?  Nearly never.  So did the quality of the tomatoes matter?

The only way I could continue to sleep at night once my mind was latched to this query was to embark upon a comparison of my own.  I aimed to purchase Muir Glen tomatoes, organic tomatoes, and generic tomatoes.  The biggest supermarket around, however, did not stock Muir Glen.  I settled on the three brands you see above.

They were priced as follows
$3.29 for the Pomi- the box contained nearly twice the content of the cans, so let’s go with $1.64.
$1.39 for the organic Publix tomatoes
$0.60 for the generic non-organic tomatoes

I aimed to make a simple tomato sauce to be served over whole wheat pasta to test the character of each tomato type.  Each brand of tomatoes was spiced in the same exact way: 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 cup of onions, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp dried basil per 15 oz of canned tomatoes.  I add 1/4 t of salt to the Pomi tomatoes because it was advertised as “salt-free” while the other brands were not.

As you can see from the picture, the results are all visually similar.  The generic, non-organic tomatoes were packaged in a larger dice than the other two types.

Using leftover whole wheat pasta I created a pasta crust as a vehicle for the sauce.  I combined 1 egg, 3 T Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup milk, and 6 oz cooked, chopped pasta.  I spread this mixture into greased baking dishes and baked the noodles for about 20 minutes.  I then added the sauce and baked again for 10 additional minutes.

I cut each portion in half and the Omnivore and I settled in for a taste test.  I knew the identities of each sauce while the Omnivore did not.

Here are the results:
Pomi: deeper flavor, tastes like it has been cooked longer
Organic Tomatoes: sweeter, most tomatoe-y, most acidic
Generic tomatoes: brightest, sharpest, taste most like fresh

In the end, the Omnivore declared the generic tomatoes his winner while I preferred the organic canned tomatoes.  He also mentioned that no sauce was remarkable enough to declare a huge difference.  I guess it was a draw.

As the primary cook in the house, I can see myself leaning towards one or another variety depending on the meal I am making.

If I need a deeply flavored sauce with little cooking time, I’d go for the Pomi.
If cooking with red wine or beef, I’d also go for the Pomi.  The deep flavors seem like it would pair well those ingredients.

For other cooking applications, I’d prefer the Organic tomatoes.

If making a fresh salsa or the lightly cooked sauce using canned tomatoes, I’d use the generic, which seem to be least cooked in the canned state and most brightly and sharply flavored.

But, if no one can really identify a striking difference (as the Omnivore and I couldn’t), I’d probably rely on the cheapest most frugal option.

Caesar Pasta with Romaine and Parmesan

January 8, 2011

Sometimes I find the food blogging world to be a wee bit incestuous.  A recipe is made.  A new person takes a pretty picture.  That blog gets crawled on StumbleUpon or FoodGawker, and BAM! every other entry of the blogs you follow turns out to be that same meal.

That’s okay, right?  We blog to share food we like.  It just becomes a little boring when everyone is sharing the same food at the same time.  I’ve been guilty of it, too.  But, lately, when I make a recipe that is frequently appearing on blogs (because it is obviously good!) I decide not to blog it.  If you follow BrannyBoilsOver, you might follow who I follow anyway, so unless I’ve branny-fied the recipe, I pass on the repetition.

I don’t mention this observation because it is a bad thing.  We all have a right to blog exactly what we want.  And sure, some people put new spins on recipes or take better pictures of them, and therefore readers might take note of a recipe in one blog and not another.  In fact, I hope that this recipe takes off exactly as I mentioned above, appearing on each and every blog I follow.  Because we need to spread the word about it.  It is so delicious.  It is QUICK!  Healthy!  And just perfect.  Bright and flavorful.  Comforting and simple.

So, please, be my guest, take this post and replicate it on your blog.  If you don’t blog, make it for your husband (and mine loved it too, by the way) and tell your best girlfriend about it.  And please forgive my last statement’s assumption that only women read my blog.  Men, speak up if you’re out there!!

One Year Ago: Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Caesar Pasta with Wilted Romaine and Parmesan Cheese (adapted from Rori Trovato)
*note: I scaled this recipe to two servings because I was unsure if it would reheat well.  If you make and find that it does reheat nicely, please let me know!

4 oz whole wheat spaghetti
2 anchovy fillets, minced to oblivion
1 T olive oil
1/2 lemon’s juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t cracked black pepper
the very inner heart of a head of romaine lettuce – about 8-10 of the smallest leaves
1/3 cup parmesan cheese + more for garnish

Bring a salted pot of water to a rolling boil and add pasta.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and set aside, reserving 1/3 cup pasta water.

Heat a skillet to medium-high and add olive oil.  When hot, saute minced anchovy for 2 minutes.  Add garlic, lemon juice, and pepper and cook 1 minute.  Turn heat to medium and add lettuce leaves, cooking about 1-2 minutes while tossing occasionally, until wilted but crisp rather than soggy.  Add pasta and cheese to the pan and toss to coat and distribute.  If it seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.  Serve garnished with more cheese and croutons.

This post has been submitted to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Chez Cayenne.

Mashed Cauliflower

January 6, 2011

There was a really good sale on russet potatoes this week at my local grocery store.  $2.99 for 10 pounds.  I would have been foolish not to buy a bag.  That’s a lot of good eating!

Well, go ahead and call me a fool.  Because I came home with this instead.  I guess it was still a decent deal, though, being that cauliflower is a winter-harvested vegetable.

I guess it is pretty obvious what happened.  You say potato.  I say cauliflower.  The result?  A darn fine “starch” to accompany meat and lima beans.

And, of course, guilt-free room for dessert (or in my case, seconds).

One Year Ago: Carrot Ginger Cashew Soup

Cauliflower Mash
1 large head of cauliflower
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk, half and half, or cream

Wash and cut cauliflower in half.  Microwave each half about 5 minutes.  Chop into florets and microwave florets until very tender, about 5 minutes more, stirring halfway through the cooking time.  Pulse in a food processor, or grind with a food mill.  Add cheese to bowl and mix thoroughly (with spoon or by pulsing food processor more).  Stream in liquid until you reach your desired consistency.  Serve with a dusting of sweet paprika.