Each new year is approached with fresh eyes, lofty resolutions, and phrases like turning over a new leaf. Still year after year, we return to the same traditional meal the night before Jan. 1 — collards, cornbread, and black-eyed peas. Let’s bring some new life into the black-eyed peas as we venture into 2023.
In the South, black-eyed peas are eaten for good luck and wealth in the New Year. Additionally, the Southern United States’ warm winters proved to be an excellent climate for growing the black-eyed pea. Still, the crop is grown in warm climates all over the world, and each region prepares its own unique dishes with what is available and familiar, from Ghana to India, in all manner of stews and soups.
Black-eyed peas have an earthy flavor and, texture wise, aren’t as creamy as a cannellini bean but are more tender than a garbanzo. These elements are important as you work with them in the kitchen. Because they are small, they can be quite delicate during the cooking and soaking phase. Take care not to stir too much, as that may break the skins. Fresh black-eyed peas are harvested in the summer, but dried and canned versions are available year-round.
Dried beans are undeniably the cheapest option but the most time consuming to prepare. Because the natural moisture has been removed, they require the extra step of soaking to rehydrate before cooking. Soaking returns moisture to the beans, helping them to cook more quickly and evenly. To soak, place 1 cup of beans in 6 cups of water. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. During the soaking process, keep it simple with just beans and water. Adding the salt at this point in the process can break down the delicate skin of the beans. Salt, herbs, and aromatics will be added later.
If you forget to soak ahead of time, beans can go through a quick soak that works just as well. Instead of cold soaking, place 1 cup of dried black-eyed peas in a pot with 6 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. Allow the beans and water to sit for an hour before proceeding with your recipe.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on fresh black-eyed peas at a farmers market, be sure to use them quickly or freeze until ready to use. Fresh peas do not need to be soaked, so skip right ahead to the cooking portion.
For some black-eyed pea recipes, such as the soup below, cooking the beans is part of the recipe. For others, you’ll need cooked peas at the start. To cook the beans, begin with soaked or fresh peas. Place 1 cup of beans and 6 cups of water in a pot. Here is where you can begin to get creative and infuse flavors into the beans. For meat lovers, a ham hock is a common addition to the pot. For vegetarians who still want a rich stock, consider tossing in some Parmesan rinds. For expected flavors, add a quartered onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a bay leaf. If you’re feeling more creative, opt for dried chilies, cloves, or even fresh ginger. The water can also be swapped out for broth or stock.
Cook the black-eyed peas, liquid, and flavor elements at a simmer for 1 hour or until tender but not mushy. If using the beans immediately, strain the liquid and continue with your recipe. If saving the beans for later, refrigerate the peas in a bit of the liquid they were cooked in, also known as pot likker.
Once the black-eyed peas have been cooked, you’re left with pot likker, a rich, flavorful broth. Don’t make the mistake of tossing it down the drain. While traditionalists will of course pair the broth with cornbread, pot likker can be used for everything from cooking grits to whisking up a fine vinaigrette. In fact, look to the recipe below for a fresh salad that includes both the black-eyed peas and the pot likker.
Crispy Black-Eyed Peas
To attain the light, crispy texture of this particular preparation, it’s important to use a convection oven or an air fryer. A traditional oven will work, but the beans may be slightly denser.
1 cup black-eyed peas, cooked
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Whether using canned or cooked peas, strain any water and pat dry. Move the black-eyed peas into a medium bowl and toss with spices. Drizzle with oil and toss until the beans are fully coated. Spread the peas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and enjoy as a snack or add to a fresh salad for a light crunch.
Pot Likker Vinaigrette
This dressing is a spin off from Carla Hall’s Pot Likker Vinaigrette, swapping black-eyed peas for cannellini beans.
¼ cup well-seasoned pot likker reserved from cooking black-eyed peas
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
⅓ cup olive oil
Whisk together ingredients just before pouring over greens.
New Year, New Salad
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
2 cups Brussels sprouts, finely chopped
Pot Likker Vinaigrette, recipe above
Crispy Black-Eyed Peas, recipe above
Place the Brussels sprouts and kale in a large bowl and top with vinaigrette. Refrigerate and allow the greens to marinate in the vinaigrette for half an hour. When ready to serve, top with diced apple, Crispy Black-Eyed Peas, and a dusting of Parmesan.
Vegan Bean Dip
3 cups black-eyed peas, cooked
¼ cup onion, diced
¼ cup parsly, chopped
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until desired texture is achieved. If the dip is looking too thick, drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil while the dip is blending.
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup black-eyed peas, cooked
¼ cup onion, minced
Whisk flour and spices together. Add in the egg and mix until you have a cohesive batter. Fold in the black-eyed peas and onions. Don’t be afraid to mash some of the black-eyed peas in the process. Pour approximately ¼-inch of vegetable oil into a skillet and warm over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, scoop ⅓ cup of the mixture into the hot oil. Fry for approximately 3 minutes per side. Set on a paper towel to drain and cool. Sprinkle with finishing salt and serve with dipping sauce below.
½ cup sour cream
Juice of ¼ of a lemon
1 teaspoon of onion powder
Black pepper, to taste
Whisk together all ingredients until a cohesive mixture forms.
Soup with Whole Beans
A bright soup that awakens the senses with a hit of citrus and spice is perfect for dreary winter days. This is one of those recipes where the beans will cook in the soup, so begin with presoaked beans.
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
Fresh black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup white wine
4 cups black-eyed peas, presoaked
4 cups kale, chopped
Parmesan, to taste
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until browned and warmed through. Remove sausage from the pot and set on a paper towel-lined plate. In the same pot, saute the onion for 3 to 5 minutes or until it begins to get translucent. Add garlic and herbs. Continue to saute until fragrant, another 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the wine into the pot and use the spatula to scrape any brown bits from the pot. Return the sausage to the pot and add the stock and peas. Give the mixture one or two stirs. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Cover and cook for an hour and a half. Just before serving, stir in the chopped kale and the juice of half a lemon. Ladle into a bowl and top with a bit of lemon zest and Parmesan.
1 pie crust
1 small sweet onion
2 ounces pancetta
1½ cup cooked black-eyed peas
6 cloves Garlic Confit (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the pancetta into ¼-inch strips and cook over medium heat for approximately 3 minutes. Remove from the skillet to drain on a paper-towel lined plate.
Roll out pie crust to approximately ¼-inch thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. In a medium bowl, mash the beans with roasted garlic and herbs until well incorporated. Spread the mixture across the pie crust leaving about 1 inch around the edge empty to fold over. Thinly slice the sweet onion and layer on top of the bean and garlic spread, still leaving 1 inch around the edge of the crust empty. Sprinkle the pancetta over the onions. Fold the edge of the pie crust over the filling. Drizzle with the olive oil used to cook the garlic. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the onions are soft.
1 cup garlic
1 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 250 F. Place the peeled garlic cloves in an oven-safe dish and cover with olive oil. Cook for 1½ hours. Garlic should be soft.