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Those New Year’s black-eyed peas. December 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. In scenic PA, where our friend Ben and I now live, a dinner of roast pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Eve is supposed to bring good luck throughout the new year. But in our native South, eating black-eyed peas and greens is the secret to ensuring good luck in the coming year.

There’s just one problem: We both hate black-eyed peas, and as for cooked greens, spinach is about the beginning and end as far as we’re concerned. (We do love kale and mustard greens, but raw in salads, not cooked. And we’re not counting lightly sauteed arugula or cabbage, which we both love. Neither would be considered traditional in our native Nashville.) OFB still talks about being forced to eat a tablespoon of black-eyed peas every New Year’s Eve, and as for me, my Mama was lucky to force even one pea down my throat.

My brother reminded me of my famous black-eyed pea aversion earlier this week, and it made me stop and think. OFB and I love beans. And black-eyed peas are actually beans. So why don’t we love them? In my case, it may have been texture sensitivity: the black-eyed peas at my household were always cooked until they were slippery-mushy, the texture I loathe most. In OFB’s case, an aversion to ham and lack of any flavoring in his mama’s black-eyed peas except ham may have been the culprit. Clearly, it was time for reevaluation.

A dish with the colorful name of Hoppin’ John is the classic way to serve black-eyed peas. The peas are cooked with ham or fatback and a lot of crushed red pepper (let’s hope that’s where the hoppin’ part of Hoppin’ John comes from) , then served over rice or grits, or rice is added to the peas during the cooking process. Being a vegetarian, this method was definitely out as far as I was concerned, and besides, it didn’t sound too flavorful. Not to mention that OFB would hate it.

Time for some serious research: Heading over to my good friend Google, I searched for vegetarian Hoppin’ John recipes. And there were plenty, some classified as vegetarian, some as vegan (though they were actually all vegan—no meat or dairy products). But none of them was really a Hoppin’ John. Some cooked the black-eyed peas in barbecue sauce, some served them up with tomato sauce, some cooked them with a passel of veggies, including tomatoes, bell peppers, and celery, many dumped in pseudo-meats, from pseudo-sausage to pseudo-bacon, one added a bottle of dark beer and some liquid smoke, another stuffed them into collard rolls. These recipes all looked pretty good (except for the pseudo-meat, yuck), but they certainly weren’t Hoppin’ John.

Hmmm. It looked like my problem was that I was limiting my concept of black-eyed peas to Hoppin’ John. Perhaps it was time to regroup, to step back, to think about black-eyed peas separately from the famous dish. Back to Google I went to search for black-eyed pea recipes. Meanwhile, I’d made an intriguing discovery: besides dried and canned black-eyed peas, some of the Hoppin’ John recipes had called for frozen black-eyed peas. Well, I thought, perhaps the texture of frozen black-eyed peas would be more beanlike and less slippery-mushy than canned or cooked-up from dried beans. I was now on a mission from God.

Again, Google didn’t disappoint. My favorite of the recipes that turned up in this batch was a black-eyed pea/potato taco. But no, I just wanted a recipe for black-eyed peas and rice. Rushing to the grocery yesterday before the snowstorm that’s battering us today, I found something even better than frozen black-eyed peas: fresh black-eyed peas! I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there they were in 11-ounce plastic clamshell packs. I snapped one up. By dab, by grab, I was going to make Ben and myself something we could actually eat for New Year’s Eve, even if I had to invent it from thin air!

Thinking things through, this is what I came up with. I’ll simmer the black-eyed peas in veggie stock until they’re tender, adding a splash of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce or Pickapeppa to give them a little heat, and some Trocomare or Herbamare for saltiness and additional flavor. Once they’re almost done, I’ll brown some butter in a saucepan and saute some sweet onions with thyme, oregano, and basil. Meanwhile, I’ll cook basmati rice in our rice cooker. (And long before any of this, I’ll have put sweet potatoes in the oven to bake along with a dish of cored apples in cider with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and raisins for dessert.) And yes, I’ll cook some spinach and serve it up with balsamic vinegar and salt as a side dish.  Finally, I’ll make a really hearty, crunchy winter salad.

Just before serving, I’ll stir the sauteed onions and butter into the black-eyed peas, then top the peas with shredded cheese and stir it in. (Checking the fridge, I see that I have shredded sharp white Cheddar, shredded Asiago, shredded Parmesan, and shredded 5-cheese Italian. I suspect I’d have chosen shredded mozzarella if I’d had any, but I think I’ll use the shredded Italian, which will have mozzarella as well as Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano. Guess I’d better see what the fifth cheese is!) Then I’ll spoon the thick pea mixture over the rice, top it with sliced scallions (green onions) or fresh cilantro, and voila! Black-Eyed Peas a la Silence.

Will they be any good? Er, who knows, but if not, there’ll be more rice and the baked sweet potatoes, spinach, and baked apples to fill the gap. And tradition holds that just by tasting them, we’ll have brought ourselves good luck for the coming year!

I’ll admit while I’m at it that another concept I found intriguing was a black-eyed pea salad. If I were making one, I’d cook the peas until tender but still holding their shape, then let them cool. Meanwhile, I’d tear some Romaine lettuce into bite-size pieces (or, gulp, open a bag of prepared Romaine) and pour them into a big salad bowl. Then I’d chop up tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, cucumber, sweet onion, and scallions (green onion) in a big bowl, add the cooled black-eyed peas, pour extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top, sprinkle oregano, thyme, and basil on lavishly, along with plenty of salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare, stir all well to blend thoroughly, pour it over the bed of Romaine, and serve. Knowing me, I’d probably sprinkle shredded Parmesan over the finished salad before serving. Yum!

What are your New Year’s traditions? Please share them with us. And a very happy, blessed, and lucky new year to you and yours!

           ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

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Comments»

1. Amanda - December 31, 2009

I can’t see those peas being anything but good, given your ingredients!!

I’m intrigued that you buy shredded cheese, though. Doesn’t that work out much more expensive than buying hunks of cheese and doing your own shredding? Not that I’ve ever actually compared the costs, but I’ve always assumed that would be the case!

We don’t have any New Year traditions in our house, although the croissants we had for breakfast on New Year’s Day last year are probably worthy of a tradition (or they would be if I wasn’t planning on shedding a few pounds in 2010…).

Happy New Year and I hope your peas are delicious!

Yum, Amanda! Hot croissants with butter and marmalade (and sharp cheese and sliced crisp apples on the side) are our idea of heaven! Like you, though, we try not to have them more than once or twice a year because of the calorie issue, so they’re a really special treat. I think you should definitely make them a tradition! As for the shredded cheese, I think I can figure out the cost comparison pretty quickly: We can buy two 8-ounce packs of shredded cheese at our local grocery for $5. (They claim this is 4 cups of shredded cheese.) Or we can buy a 16-ounce block of store-brand cheese for $4.99. We actually buy both, add the shredded cheese to cooked dishes for supper and eat the block cheese with apples or bell peppers and a crusty baguette, crackers, or chips for lunch. Needless to say, I used to always grate my cheese before the advent of the bags of shredded cheese, and it was hardly a major effort. But if the price really is comparable (as long as you buy the store brand on sale or have a coupon for another brand) and the work already done, I’ll go for pre-shredded! I’ll let you know how the black-eyed peas turn out. And a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year to you and yours!!!

2. jodi (bloomingwriter) - December 31, 2009

We don’t have any traditions either; we’re going to see a movie at the early show tonight (Sherlock Holmes) and then will likely go for a drive to look at the Christmas lights, come home, have a glass of wine, and then hubby will go to bed and I’ll read or write something til I’m ready to sleep. Tres excitement, non?
Have never eaten blackeyed peas, but your suggestions sound great!
Happy New year to you and OFB, Silence! Here’s to a great 2010.

We were planning to see Sherlock Holmes last night, Jodi, but the weather betrayed us. Please let us know what you think! Sherlock and “Young Victoria” are definitely on our must-see list! We enjoy a low-key New Year’s—no stress, good times. We’ll probably have a nice supper and watch some episodes of “Monarch of the Glen” (we’re trying to catch up via Netflix, now in Season 5). Then OFB will probably read one of his travel books—he’s currently reading Tony Horwitz’s book “Baghdad without a Map”—and I’ll do a bit of knitting or continue reading my Virginia cookbook and tour guide until neither of us can prop our eyelids up any longer… At any rate, wishing you all a joyous, healthy and happy new year!!!

3. Black Eyed Peas Recipe | SJR - December 31, 2009

[...] Those New Year's Black-eyed Peas. « Poor Richard's Almanac Perhaps it was time to regroup, to step back, to think about black-eyed peas separately from the famous dish. Back to Google I went to search for black-eyed pea recipes. Meanwhile, I’d made an intriguing discovery: besides dried and… [...]

4. Black Eyed Peas New Years Tradition | SJR - December 31, 2009

[...] Those New Year's Black-eyed Peas. « Poor Richard's Almanac In scenic PA, where our friend Ben and I now live, a dinner of roast pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Eve is supposed to bring good luck throughout the new year. But in our native South, eating black-eyed peas and greens is the secret . And traditio… [...]

5. Dr. Huma Ibrahim - January 1, 2010

Madhur Jafferies has one—which I quite enjoyed but I don’t hate them—can only eat them once a year.

I’ll check it out, Huma, thanks!

6. deb - January 1, 2010

I love black eyed peas with lots of hot peppers, onion and some Worchestershire sauce. No ham needed.

Thanks, Deb!!!

7. Victoria - January 1, 2010

You were on a mission from God! Ha ha ha! Is Ben also a vegetarian?

No New Year’s traditions here, I’m sorry to say. My better half is working tonight, so I’m on my own, enjoying a glass (or two) of wine and perusing the net.

Happy New Year. Hope the BEP recipe does the trick.

Happy New Year to you, too, Victoria! Ours was very quiet as well. I was in bed by 9:30 and even OFB had fallen over by 10. And no, he’s not a vegetarian, but fortunately loves my cooking, so we eat veggie at home and he gets to indulge in as much meat as he wants when we go out.

8. Cinj - January 1, 2010

I remember talking about the black eyed peas with you last year. Still not a tradition in our house. We don’t even stay up late enough for the count down. Those do sound like they’d be good though. I’m curious to find out how they turned out.

Gack! Turns out I didn’t make them quite like that, in part because the fresh peas still took a couple of hours to cook! (I couldn’t believe it. Frozen or canned would have been ready in a half-hour max. Even dried wouldn’t have taken as long if they’d been soaked first overnight. Aaarrgghhh.) While the peas were cooking away in veggie stock, I sauteed onions in butter with lots of seasonings, then added mushrooms, a chopped yellow bell pepper, and three kinds of greens: arugula, spinach, and cilantro. I then combined the two pots, tasted, added balsamic vinegar, tasted, added red wine, tasted… and kept cooking and cooking and cooking. For all the effort I put into it, I might as well have been making boeuf bourguinon! When the peas had finally cooked through, I served them up over rice and sprinkled cheese on top, and after all that, I still didn’t like the way they tasted! (OFB enjoyed them, though, and pretty much wiped out the pot, thank goodness. The chickens got the rest this morning for their New Year’s celebration.) Next year, I may try canned black-eyed peas and see if they taste any better, but it was the flavor of the peas themselves I didn’t like, not the stuff they were cooked with, so I’m not too hopeful! Fortunately we had luscious baked sweet potatoes and sides and a new season of “Monarch of the Glen” to watch, so all was not lost!

9. GrafixMuse - January 1, 2010

It’s funny you should mention Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens. Being a Mainer, I had never heard of this traditional New Year’s meal until yesterday afternoon. I was picking up a few groceries and the cashier and bagger were talking about a previous customer with a Southern accent purchasing black eyed peas, collard greens, and ham. Trust me, it’s not a common thing here. I was curious and looked up the combination and learned about the custom. Very interesting.

Happy New Year!

And happy New Year to you, GrafixMuse!!! I was fascinated to read about the wide range of New Year’s customs, including the Greek custom of whacking the side of the house with a loaf of bread. One thing that’s typically evident are symbols of abundance, like pork and bread. It’s only in the South that symbols of poverty (lowly cowpeas and collards) are exalted to good-luck status, supposedly because when the Northern soldiers came through the South in the Civil War, they left these two crops in the fields, considering them forage for animals, so the Southerners were able to survive by eating them. I can’t attest to the truth of this legend, but it’s certainly colorful!

10. Heather - January 1, 2010

Sounds like a new traditions brewing to me! I can honestly say I have never had black eyed peas but your new version may just be the ticket! Anxious to hear the verdict! Happy New Year~

Happy New Year to you and all yours, too, Heather! I can’t wait to see what 2010 brings you!!!

11. Becca - January 2, 2010

mmmm…mmmm…your concoction sounds delicious! I adore black eyed peas and so had no trouble filling up my dutch oven with their yumminess. :) We had braised cabbage to go along with the peas and rice–and just for a safe measure, had spinach, chive and cheese quesadillas for lunch today!

Yum!!! I need to make some braised cabbage, too, Becca! And your quesadillas sound so yummy. I’d have to add some sour cream and fresh salsa, maybe sub fresh arugula for the spinach, and oh, my! I can’t wait to try it!

Becca - January 2, 2010

the entire mixture was shredded parmesan, shredded x-sharp cheddar, oregano, fresh chives and cumin. I “had” to use the spinach and chives b/c they are fresh from our pitiful winter garden. As for the other toppings, I made rice mixed with diced tomatoes and chipotle sauce and we ate that topped with sour cream! It was sooo good. :)

And the braised cabbage is from Jane Brody’s “Good Food Cookbook,” one of the best cookbooks in the world! :)

Yum, now I REALLY have to make this!!! As for your “pitiful” winter garden, at least it’s not buried under inches of snow and sleet like ours. I’m so jealous!


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