Dining Diary By Mary Ann Fitzmorris, For A Change.

We’re Southerners, okay? Not Chicago, or Boston, or Missoula. We don’t do “real winter.” So when I saw the Abita town fountain frozen over, I decided to RSVP (this time, regrets) an invitation to what promised to be a spectacular way to ring in 2018. It was to be a party in the presidential suite on the top floor of the Westin Canal Place Hotel to see the midnight fireworks.

I hope the hosts–who I know are reading this) forgive me in this lifetime. It was so bitterly cold I wouldn’t leave the house yesterday even to get black eyed peas. Besides, Tom was going to have his own NYE fun checking the pipes every fifteen minutes outside to make sure they don’t freeze up. I didn’t have the heart to pull him away from that. I decided to hunker down for the evening and cook. We have lots of food we didn’t get to at Christmas.

I began with leftover lump crabmeat that didn’t wind up in the crab cakes Benedict our son and his family. I dropped it into a saucepan with chopped scallions and butter and capers. Capers were always a failproof food item for me–until I did this night’s recipe.

Something was off with it. I didn’t swoon when I tasted it. I grabbed some cream and cream cheese (heavy artillery) and parmesan cheese, and put it all in a baking dish. It went into the oven I’m using in this cold in lieu of a fireplace. We devoured this quickly with some Stacy’s fire roasted jalapeno pita chips.

We popped the bubbly at about 8:30 and I brought out some new potato slices topped with scallion sour cream and caviar, dusted lightly with sea salt.

I also sliced some cooked Italian sausage links and layered them with sliced Brussels sprouts in a baking dish, alternating them for visual effect, then I poured sautéed onion and jalapeno over them to bake.

Hummus made with blackeye peas.

Black eye peas are, to me, a success-proof food item. Disguising them is the only option. In the past they have found their way into baked beans where the cabbage was cole slaw, or a fresh cilantro dressing salsa, or hummus. Today I did a four-bean hummus which will not show up in pics. Hummus is a homely dish at best, so imagine it with black beans and kidney beans as well as the peas.

And I finally roasted the poor root veggies that never make it to the oven for Christmas. I also made more sweet potatoes. If you’re still doing sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows and brown sugar, I have one word for you. Reboot!! It’s 2018!
(All recipes are below)

Satisfied with my promises to keep the pipe project going, Tom went to bed, leaving me all alone to cook the traditional foods for the first day of the new year in my non-traditional way.

Outside was a nearly-full moon. I moved onto the kitchen deck in the cold. The sky was exquisite, as it can be only in rural settings away from city lights. The overcast sky was stuffed with nearly perfect rows of fluffy clouds, dotted only by an occasional very bright star peeking through. I stood all alone in the bitter cold, at perfect peace and almost giddy happy about prospects for 2018.

Within minutes it was 2018 and the country neighbors blew up their thousand dollars right over the tree line. Fabulous show, I felt just for me, though I know better. I sipped my champagne with a huge smile on my face, until I could bear the cold no longer. It went on for a bit, and I went in and out on the kitchen deck until it was finished.

I enjoyed my quiet time in these last minutes of the year just passed. I was grateful to ponder the final six weeks of 2017, and their profound (and even divine) message for me. The last month of 2017 was so dreadful I had to give myself a pep talk each morning. But the very last bit of news I received in 2017 makes it seem that 2018 will be a thrill ride-a little scary but totally exhilarating.

I wish the same for you. Buckle up!

Crab Dip

1 lb lump crabmeat
1/2 cup cream cheese
Bunch chopped scallions
1/3 stick of butter
1/2 cup cream or half and half
Tbs. capers (optional)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

1. In a skillet, heat butter and scallions.

2. Add cream cheese, cream and parmesan till melted. Gently toss in crab and transfer to baking dish. Add bread crumbs and bake at 350 till bubbling.

Hummus

Take your favorite hummus recipe and replace half the garbanzo beans with black eyed peas and other beans.

Fingerling Appetizers

Small fingerling potatoes
Bunch scallions
4 oz sour cream
Caviar
Sea salt (optional)

1. Bake potatoes at 350 till done
2. Slice cooled potatoes (skin on) into 1/4″ slices.
3. Chop scallions finely and mix into sour cream, placing a teaspoon on top of each piece.
4. Place caviar in top and lightly dust with sea salt

Sweet Potatoes

5 small but long sweet potatoes
3/4 stick butter
5 Tbs. cinnamon
4 Tbs. turmeric
5 Tbs. curry powder
4 Tbs. ginger
3 Tbs. nutmeg
3 Tbs. cumin

Peel potatoes and slice lengthwise, then into quarter inch pieces. Place in 2 ” glass baking dish. Sprinkle each spice and on top And place the butter on top. Bake at 350, checking often to coat all pieces with the melted butter.

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