Blackbeans, collard greens and snow 6

Did you know that one of the things you can do when the sixth snowstorm hits (in what is proving to be a long, cold, brutal Boston winter)  is to pay attention to the oh-so-gleeful weatherman when the forecast is  firm and prepare some snowstorm food? 

The night before said snowstorm, if you were me, you took a pound of dried black beans, coveedr them with cold water and let them soak overnight.  You grabbed one of two smoked ham hocks from the freezer and thawed it out.  Doing these two things allowed me to make a fabulously aromatic and delicious black bean stew even though I was too lazy to go to the store to get green peppers or sour cream to garnish.  This laziness also meant that I did not also buy flour and buttermilk to make cornbread to go with said soup – that and the fact that I’m in the midst of another 30-day, self-imposed flour-fast. (Cornmeal I had.)

I looked at 3 recipes knowing that I did not have all the ingredients they listed.  So I improved and came up with a damn tasty stew, if I do say so myself! Here’s what I did:

  • Drained the black beans and covered them with fresh water in a big old pot.

  • Brought them to a boil, then lowered to a simmer for 30 minutes (with a pot-top askew).

  • Added 1 cup of low-sodium chicken stock (since the water had cooked down).

  • Added ham hock to pot and cooked for 45 minutes (pot-top still askew).

  • Then added 1 chopped, medium-big Spanish onion + 8 minced cloves of garlic.

  • Simmered soup for another 45 minutes, splashing with about ½ cup chicken stock.

During this simmer, the celery and carrots in the refrigerator called to me to be included in the black bean party so I chopped 1 stalk of celery and 2 diced medium carrots. Next I:

  • Pulled the ham hock out of the stew and let it cool.
  • Added  the celery and carrots to the beans/
  • Added 2 full tablespoons of fire-roased, diced chile peppers, 1 teas. of kosher salt, generous sprinkles of onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, and a dash or two of balsamic and white vinegars.
  • Simmered for 20 minutes and added the tablespoon of meat pulled from the ham hock to the pot and simmered for another 30 minutes.

Total cooking time: 2 ½ hours

While this was going on, I remembered a bag of collard greens frozen from the bounty of Christmas dinner.  Did a quick thaw with them by dunking the bag in a bowl of hot water which loosened them up. I dumped them in a pot on the stove (with the top on), set a low flame and let them simmer for about 15 minutes.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I threw 3 chicken thighs in the oven for about an hour at 350 degrees?  They were simply seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic power.  (They were actually supposed to be for the next day’s supper but only one is left because somehow it all went together.)

I called my husband to come down to dine.  We grabbed some hot sauce, vinegar and had a snowstorm feast marred only by the fact that there was no cornbread or bread of any kind.

The snowstorm feast tasted so good I wanted to slap myself!  Tasted to good that when I left the house the next day, I immediately headed to the store and bought a few things including flour.  This is why you see cornbread on the photo.  I simply had to make some cornbread (in a cast iron skillet as always).

The photo is of the plate I had on the second day.  The leftovers were so yummy that my husband also had some.  This  is virtually unheard of for him – he doesn’t tend to eat leftovers until a few days later.  The leftovers were so good that I overcame my usual reticence, called my neighbor, and asked him if he’d like black bean stew and cornbread (the greens were history).  He said yes and asked me if I’d like some cookies he’d just baked.  (His cookies were fudgy-chocolate with nuts, topped by a white chocolate drop. They looked spectacular as if they were bought from a bakery, and tasted divine.)   Recipes will be exchanged.

See what a winter storm can bring if you just give yourself over to it?  Deliciousness.  Warmth.  Neighborliness. 

I’ll be back off flour again, soon as I have that last cookie that is downstairs waiting on me.  Finished off the cornbread with today’s dinner.)

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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6 thoughts on “Blackbeans, collard greens and snow

  • Lydia

    I love snowstorm cooking. Also being too reluctant to leave the house and stock up ahead of time, I have to rely on what’s in the pantry. It’s the time when my cooking is most creative, and when I realize that I keep lots of good stuff on hand (including beans, which are a must for storms!) all the time.

  • Jim

    This sounds absolutely delicious and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but there are many vegetarians out there who would stop reading when the hamhocks go in. Since I have a fair amount of experience converting meat dishes to vegetarian, I thought I’d tell you that it can be done exactly the same way w/o the meat. Just add a little more salt to compensate for what you lose by leaving out the ham. Nothing else is required, the resulting soup will have a slightly beanier flavor. I have added Kombu seaweed to Black Bean soup which provides the salt and disappears in the melange. Completely unidentifiable in flavor or texture, the seaweed disintegrates but aids digestion of beans making staying indoors with one’s partner that much more enjoyable! For a complete protein, serve with brown rice. Meat unnecessary.

  • Candelaria

    Thanks for your comment, Jim, and your suggestions.  If vegetarians would stop reading because of ham hock – oh well, their loss.  I didn’t eat pork for years but would adapt recipes that called for it.   As you know, I’ve read a lot of books on food and food lifestyles.  I now only buy meat, when I buy it, that has been grassfed or sustainably raised.  Mostly organic.  Local when I can.  Having read The Vegetarian Myth and lots of other books, a little meat every now and then does a body good.  So, three ham hocks in my freezer, per year is what I use when I just have that itch that only a ham hock can scratch.

  • Candelaria

    And you  know we’re going to have at least a couple more before this winter season ends.
    Thankyou for taking the time to visit my blog.  Be warm in body and spirit in this winter wonderland.