Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black-eyed Peas - Good Luck for the New Year!

It seems that every culture has some food that brings good luck for the New Year. In the African American tradition black-eyed peas bring good luck. I cannot swear by this, but a tradition is a tradition and do you really want to tempt fate?

Some African Americans eat black-eyed peas and rice or Hoppin’ John on New Year s Day. In my family black-eyed peas and cornbread was the way to go. Either way, both dishes are excellent sources of protein. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, black-eyed peas are high in iron, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and complex carbohydrates, which help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

Although Southerners cook a wide variety of peas, it seems that Black-eyed peas reign supreme. It seems that everyone I talk to, whether Southerner or not, know about black-eyed peas. It is believed that black-eyed peas were brought to America by slaves. They were planted in the borders of fields by slaves, thus the name, field pea.

Cooking Black-eyed Peas
If you would like to prepare black-eyed peas by starting with the dried kind, here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Pick through the peas. Discard any rocks or other debris, discolored or broken peas.

2. Although not entirely necessary, beans and peas are generally soaked before cooking. It shortens the cooking time. For every cup of beans, use 3 cups of water for soaking.

3. Place peas in water, cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours or overnight. Drain the peas and cook as desired.

 4. One pound of beans or peas is about 2 cups. One pound of dry beans will yield about 5 to 6 cups of cooked peas.

Here are a couple of recipes for you to try your luck with. If you don’t get around to these on New Year’s Day, you’ve got 364 more chances. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous new year.

Marinated Black-eyed Peas

Serves 8.

Ingredients:
2 cans (15 ounces each) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
¾ cup chopped bell peppers, your choice of colors
1 garlic clove
1 small onion, minced
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 to 3 medium tomatoes

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, combine black-eyed peas, bell peppers, garlic, and onion.

2. In a small bowl combine vinegar, olive oil, and thyme. Add to vegetable mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

3. To serve, place tomatoes on individual plates. Spoon black-eyed peas onto tomatoes.

Hip Hoppin’ John

Serves 6 side dishes or 4 main dishes.

Ingredients:
1 cup dried black eyed peas
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, optional
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes
1 small red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup long grained or converted white or brown rice

Directions:
1. Pick through peas, discarding broken or discolored peas and any debris, such as rocks. Rinse and drain peas. Place in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups of water. Soak overnight. Drain peas and discard water.

2. In a Dutch oven, cover peas with 5 cups of water. Add bay leaf, thyme, salt (if using) and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic; cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, crushed pepper and bell pepper to peas. Stir to mix well. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Cooking the Rice.
Some people cook the rice with the peas and others cook it separately. If you plan to cook the rice separately, reduce the amount of water in the peas by about 2 cups.

Source: Low-fat Soul by Jonell Nash

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