Let’s get it started in here

What better way to get it started (and retarded!) in here than modestly, with the lowly yet lovely black-eyed pea?  Whoever it was who started eating cowpeas for a prosperous new year was under some funny impressions: something about them plumping up as they cook means they’re bound to plump up your pocketbook too.  This New Year’s Eve in Gainesville, too cold to scoot, I power-walked to Publix and found black-eyed peas on sale for a song (79 cents, if anyone’s counting, and with my stipend, of course I am!).  On top of exciting which, bags of collards were buy-one-get-one-free (it is those flat green leaves, looking like bills, bills, bills)!

After the chilly trek home I could do nothing else but boil the collards with ham hocks, and drink the pot liquor up like there would be never any pot liquor tomorrow.  But after that— I am not proud to admit— that 79-cent bag of little legumes slipped my mind entirely.  Until just now, that is, when I noticed them imploring from the pantry “peas do not forget us!”
This resultant dish was adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s “Greek black-eyed pea salad” from her “Recipes for Health.”  The pretty frond of dill gets me every time.

  • 1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, washed and picked over
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

1. Cook the beans with the bay leaf and salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cooking time varies depending on whether or not you’ve soaked them.*  Why not give them a peek in a 1/2 hour?  You’ll want them firm not mushy.

2. Meanwhile, slice your red onion and put it in a salad bowl, with a sprinkle of salt and the red wine vinegar.  Massage it all in there; the goal is an onion that’s a little bit pickly, not aggressively raw.  Bright pink, is the color you’re going for.

3. Glug some olive oil into a medium skillet, over medium high heat.  Add the peppers, then— after they’ve softened very slightly— add the garlic and cumin.  Give this a touch of salt.

4. After extracting the bay leaf, throw the beans in with the vinegary onions, then fold in the peppers and garlic.  To this, add additional oil and bean cooking liquid.  Taste it!!  If it seems to need vinegar, add it!  If it seems to need salt, salt away! Also don’t forget the pepper.

5. Cool it down to roomish temperature, then add your dill and parsley and sprinkle with feta.

6. Eat peas and prosper!

*Word on beans: I soak and soak and soak them, because Sally Fallon says so: something about the long soak improves their digestibility.  I also boil them with garlic cloves or a tiny onion for that extra special something, and I salt from the get-go.  But you can do whatever makes you happy.  You should always do whatever makes you happy.

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January 19, 2010. Tags: . Uncategorized.

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