Just minutes after midnight on January 1st, I opened my first bottle of sparkling wine (champagne). Now, I've drunk champagne and sparkling wine many times before, but this is the first time I've actually opened the bottle myself. Following the guidelines I learned in my wine class, I removed the foil, carefully removed the cage (7 turns or so), then, holding the bottle at an angle, proceeded to twist the bottle while holding onto the cork. I could feel the cork beginning to come out, and voilà! I had successfully and perfectly opened this bottle of sparkling wine -- just a bit of vapor drifted out of the opening and all the bubbles were going strong. This was an Italian sparkling wine, demi-sec, and a wonderful way to toast the coming year (along with some chocolate-mint cookies)!
For dinner, I made a curried black-eyed pea soup (also a tradition), which I served with home-baked bread. 2008 feels like it is going to be a wonderful year!
Curried Black-eyed Pea Soup
2-5 bacon slices, diced (depending on personal preference)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3 15-oz cans black-eyed peas
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
In a large pot (3- to 5-quart) cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until golden. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the spices during the last minute, and stir to heat them up and bring out the flavors. (If you like it spicier, just increase the amount to taste.) Add the peas with their liquid and about 2 cups of broth, and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
You can change the texture of the soup by blending all or some of it, depending on your preferences. I usually puree some of the soup using a stick blender to thicken it slightly.
Sprinkle on some chopped parsley before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.
Happy New Year!