Although many of the dishes I’ve shared on this blog start with “take one whole live pig“, we’re going to jump off into the new year with a VEGETARIAN (and now that I think about it, it’s actually vegan) recipe for a black-eyed pea salad.
Not to worry, I haven’t jumped over to the dark side- I’m still an unrepentant carnivore- but I came up with this particular combination during my summer work, where I live communally and cook for a community of women, starting with 6 of us and growing to 600 each August. As you might imagine, there’s a wide variety of dietary needs in the group: folks who don’t eat gluten, vegetarians, vegans, women fighting cancer, and of course fellow carnivores. This recipe pleased everyone who ate it, no matter what their personal dietary needs. Of course, the one thing everyone has in common is a love of delicious food, and meat or no, this savory combination of collards and black-eyed peas fits that bill.
It’s particularly appropriate just now, as we move into the turning of the year. I’m proud to be an adopted Southerner, and am a great lover of Southern food, including the traditional Hoppin’ John and slow cooked greens with fatback that are often served on the 1st. Tradition states that the greens and beans represent money headed your way in the coming year, and wouldn’t that be just lovely?
This, however, is a lighter meal from those same ingredients, brightened up with balsamic vinegar and sweetened with delicious caramelized onions- and it keeps splendidly, making a great dish to whomp up and take for lunch in the coming week, or to bring to a gathering where many different dietary preferences are happening. In fact, the only person I’ve ever met who shouldn’t eat this is ME- my Crohn’s disease can’t process high fiber foods, which this is in spades. But I love to make it for the ones I love, and you should too.
Black-eyed Peas and Collards with Caramelized Onions
(serves 8, but keeps and freezes splendidly)
A sharp knife
Large mixing bowl
1.5 c dried black-eyed peas
1 bunch fresh collard greens, stripped from the stems and sliced into 1/2 inch strips
3 medium yellow onions, halved and then sliced thinly
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced (optional)
1/2 c olive oil, divided
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
(Please note: black-eyed peas are pretty quick cooking, and don’t need to be soaked in advance).
Place black-eyed peas in a medium saucepan, and add water until it’s 2″ above the peas. Season well with salt. (That argument that salting beans makes them tough is not true– you just get unseasoned beans). Cook on medium-low for 30-45 minutes, or until beans are tender, adding water as needed. I like to turn them off and let them sit a bit, after cooking. I think they’re plumper and more tender that way. Rinse the cooked beans with cool water and set aside.
While your beans are cooking, start sauteing your onions with 1 T of olive oil in a large skillet. I have to say- caramelizing onions is one of my FAVORITE kitchen tasks. Not only does it make your kitchen smell WONDERFUL, it always reminds me of spending cool summer mornings over a fragrant wok, stirring for hours and chatting with a friend. Caramelizing onions for 500 takes a REALLY long time, but these will only take you a half hour or so (magically, they will finish about the same time as the BEPs. Cook them on low, stirring occasionally. If the onions start to stick, add a bit of water and scrape up all the browned bits that dissolve into it. When they’re done, they’ll look like this:
You could cook them a bit more, but they’ll start to fall apart, which is GREAT for the dish, and lousy for getting a really attractive salad that you’re hoping to take photograph. If you’ve chosen to add the optional garlic (recipe doesn’t really need it), add it to the skillet in the last five minutes of cooking. Place the finished onions into a large mixing bowl, and rinse out your skillet.
The last bit of cooking is the collards, which are sauteed in the same skillet, in a bit of olive oil. You’ll want to salt these as they cook, and they’re pretty fast, as you’re just going to tender, not falling apart. Don’t be alarmed at the sheer quantity of collards- like the onions, they’ll reduce down really far. In fact, I usually saute these in two quick batches, as it’s more than will fit in the pan.
The greens and peas will join your onions in the mixing bowl- isn’t that pretty? All that’s left is the seasoning. Add balsamic vinegar (and grocery store balsamic is fine here), the rest of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be afraid to add salt. Remember, to taste means until it’s delicious to you!
And here’s the finished salad, decoratively arranged on a bed of collards fresh from the garden. It’s good just like this, but will be even better tomorrow- and you can eat it straight out of the fridge or heat it up a bit. It is STUPIDLY delicious, way out of proportion to the work or cost. In fact, I’ve walked away from the computer after each picture here, to grab another bite off the top of that platter sitting on my kitchen table (I’ll be paying for that later).
So that’s it. A dish for the New Year, which you can share with anyone- with wishes from me for health, prosperity, and most importantly, lots of love in 2016.
Until next time,