Black-eyed peas are the New Year's tradition -- a Southern tradition, for the most part, brought to the Carolinas and Georgia from West Africa via the West Indies -- believed to bring luck and prosperity. Make them with pork fat, make them vegetarian, make them even luckier by adding greens (which supposedly represent paper money).
Here are a few recipes: black-eyed peas and sausage; warm black-eyed pea salad with wilted mustard greens and bacon; and vegetarian black-eyed peas and mushrooms. Happy new year!
Black-eyed peas and sausage
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
10 cups cold water, divided
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces pork fatback, diced into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound precooked pork sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooked white rice
Note: Ask your butcher for pork fatback or look for it in Latino markets.
Rinse dried peas in a colander under cold running water. Soak overnight in eight cups of cold water in a heavy saucepan. The next day add two more cups of water and a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the saucepan and cook for one hour until tender, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the diced fatback, cooking about 10 minutes until browned. Add to the peas. Place the onion, green pepper, thyme and garlic in the skillet and cook until softened. Add to the peas and stir to combine thoroughly. After the peas have cooked for one hour, add the sliced sausage and Tabasco and cook for 15 minutes to heat the sausages. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon peas, vegetables and broth over cooked white rice and serve.
Warm salad of black-eyed peas, wilted mustard greens and bacon
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
Scant 1 cup (6 ounces) dried black-eyed peas
1 small dried bay leaf
2 small sprigs fresh thyme
6 ounces bacon, preferably apple wood-smoked, cut crosswise into strips about 1 inch by 1/4 inch
1 large bunch mustard greens, washed, stems removed and very roughly cut (about 12 cups loosely packed)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably aged
4 slices of good-quality country white bread
2 cups mâche
1. In a 2-quart lidded soup pot or cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. When the vegetables are soft,add the dried beans, bay leaf and thyme and enough water to cover (1 1/2 to 2 cups). Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with the lid. After about 10 minutes, check the beans to make sure that there's enough water (add more if necessary; there should be enough liquid to cover) and add three-fourths teaspoon salt. Continue cooking until tender, about 20 more minutes (this may vary). Take off the heat and set aside the beans. You should have about 3 cups of cooked beans.
3. While the beans are cooking,cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over low heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside; keep the pot on the heat.
4. In the same pot in which you cooked the bacon, over medium heat, add the mustard greens, a little at a time, stirring constantly so that they wilt. Add all the greens and stir to coat. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the greens are wilted, dark green and very tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside.
5. Toast or grill the slices of bread. In a large bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons olive oil and the sherry vinegar. Add 3 cups of the cooked beans, the warm mustard greens, the bacon and the mâche. Toss the salad together until combined, then divide among four plates and top with a slice of toasted bread. Serve immediately.
Black-eyed peas and mushrooms (vegetarian)
11 ounces soaked black-eyed peas
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
* Drain peas and combine in small saucepan with water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer and cook until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
* Melt butter in nonstick skillet over high heat. When butter has foamed and foam has receded, add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
* When peas are done, drain and add to mushrooms. Stir together and season to taste with salt. Add healthy grind of pepper. Add parsley and stir well, then add lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning; mixture may need a little more lemon juice.