For the past couple of years I’ve been running variations on the New Year’s good luck menu. So far we’ve had the long-simmered version of Hoppin’ John using dried peas and the quick-cooked rendition using frozen or canned peas. This year it’s Hoppin’ John soup — why not? — that gets ladled over cooked rice. Since the soup incorporates the mandatory greens — which represent folding money — I offer you benne seed wafers as a pre-supper nibble.

BENNE SEED COINS

Somehow or other sesame seeds began to be called “benne seeds” in the deep South. These addictive little wafers are shaped like golden coins — another good omen for a new year.

Makes 4 to 5 dozen wafers

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

2 cups (1 pound) grated sharp cheddar cheese, preferably yellow cheddar

2 tablespoons cold water

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds, stirring almost constantly, until they are fragrant and one shade darker in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Reserve.

In a food processor, pulse together flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Add butter and cheese and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cold water and pulse until dough begins to clump together on top of the blades, 15 to 20 seconds.

Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 12 inches long. Roll in the sesame seeds, pressing them firmly into the dough so they adhere. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated, or frozen. Thaw slightly before slicing.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. With a sharp knife, cut log into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 7 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness, until golden and tinged with brown around the edges. Cool on wire racks. Wafers are best eaten on the day they are baked, but leftovers will keep fresh for a couple of days in a tightly sealed container or can be frozen.

HOPPIN’ JOHN SOUP

This is an adaptation of a recipe I tore out of a Saveur magazine. Hoppin’ John is adored in much of the South, and although there is dispute over the origin of the name, the dish is likely a descendant of similar Afro-Caribbean dishes made with field peas or other legumes. All the luck-producing elements are here in a single pot, so just add a basket of buttery cornbread to seal the deal.

Servings: 8

1 pound dried black-eyed peas

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

10 cups liquid (chicken broth, water, or a combination)

1 smoked ham bone or 2 large ham hocks

1 pound collard greens, thinly sliced (5 to 6 cups)

1 cup finely diced ham, from ham bone or a ham steak

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

6 cups cooked long-grain white rice

11/2 cups chopped tomatoes

11/2 cups thinly sliced scallions

Additional vinegar for passing

Hot sauce

Soak the beans overnight in cold water to cover. Drain in a colander.

In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook over medium heat until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, thyme, pepper flakes and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the beans, liquid and ham bone and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are verging on tender, about 1 hour. Add the collards and continue to cook, covered, until beans and collards are very tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Stir in the ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust amount of liquid if necessary. Stir in vinegar.

Spoon rice into bowls, ladle soup over, and serve. Pass bowls of chopped tomatoes and scallions and a cruet of vinegar and a bottle of hot sauce at the table.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.