Ideally, I have a pot of beans going every Sunday, bubbling gently for a couple hours and filling the house with a savory fragrance hinting at the meals to come all week.
My go-to beans these days come from Rancho Gordo, an heirloom bean company based out of Napa, Calif. You can order the beans online or buy them at Red Mesa Mercado's market in St. Petersburg, which also sells some of their spices and hot sauces. I was raised on rice and beans and these heirloom varieties are really beautiful and tasty.
One bag lingering in my bean collection was familiar and yet foreign at the same time: black-eyed peas. I know they're prevalent in Southern cooking, and I ate them a couple of times growing up but was never really a fan.
Recently, I flipped through a cookbook on vegetables from a chef in Georgia and found an enticing recipe for fried black-eyed peas. I imagined it'd be an irresistible snack somewhere between salty, crunchy popcorn and dry roasted edamame. But was that how I wanted to revisit this ingredient? I kept looking instead for something that would make a meal out of these beans and bookmarked the fried recipe for another time.
I landed on a recipe from David Tanis, whose cookbook Heart of the Artichoke was one of the first I bought in my now ballooning cookbook collection. He had a simple, brothy setup for the peas, simmering them with ham or bacon and infusing the broth with clove and allspice. Ribbons of collard greens cooked down in garlic and crushed red pepper eventually join the party.
For as much as I spurned black-eyed peas as a teenager, I loved this dish. The beans were incredibly tender and tasted nothing like I'd remembered. Friends and I went back for seconds, dipping biscuits into a broth that made me want to lick my lips after every bite.
Though black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten in January to usher in good luck for the new year, I felt good about serving this to my husband and friends midway through the year. It seems to be one wave of bad news after another this year, and I think we could all use a little luck right now — and a good, nourishing meal.
Ileana Morales Valentine lives in St. Petersburg with her husband. For more of their kitchen stories, visit her blog, ALittleSaffron.com. Say hello at [email protected]