(This is like one of those medieval pictures in which subjects are sized not according to the laws of perspective but instead according to their importance in the world; blackeyed peas and greens have been dominating my diet for the last few days.)
Here we are, January 5th--I tend to get a slow start on the New Year. I think a lot about resolutions but rarely make them in any formal way, and in New York they leave many of the Christmas decorations up well into the second week of December, making it easy to pretend that the holiday hasn’t yet tiptoed away. By the time you look up and realize that everything is dark and cold instead of twinkly and hectic, it’s practically February, at which point you can either start looking forward to spring or cozy up under your comforter to hibernate.
On New Year’s Day I make a pot of blackeyed peas and greens so big that it feeds me for a few days. (Andrew doesn’t share my love of beans & greens and so eats only the spoonful I forcefeed him for good luck.) Maybe this, too, slows down my return to reality after the holidays—if I eat my January 1 food over and over, I stay in that hopeful, celebratory, fresh-start state. Until, that is, I realize that the amount of good fortune in the Tupperware is barely diminishing even though I’ve been eating it for lunch and dinner every day, and maybe sometimes for breakfast, too. And so, though I love blackeyed peas and greens very much, so much that I occasionally make them on non-new-year’s occasions, my resolution for 2008 is to make a smaller batch of blackeyed peas and greens to welcome 2009. They don’t freeze well (the texture is all off), and I hate to start the new year by tossing out food. Future Robin, take heed!
(Here are blackeyed peas and kale sitting on top of my get-organized scribbling for January 2, with one of the beautiful French napkins my mother gave me for Christmas...yes, I work at home and my sofa is my office!)
Blackeyed Peas and Kale
Usually I make this dish with lots of bacon, but this year I served it with delicious pulled pork tacos and macaroni and cheese and figured I should ease up on the pig fat. This recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Cypriot Blackeyed Peas with Swiss Chard in World Vegetarian, an indispensable cookbook. Try it out, but for goodness sake, CUT THE RECIPE IN HALF unless you are feeding 12 enthusiastic vegetarians. It's good and a little soupy by itself but also especially satisfying with brown rice.
Put 1 bag rinsed-and-picked-over blackeyed peas (just over 2 cups) in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, boil hard 2 minutes, remove from heat, and cover. Two hours later, drain the blackeyed peas, cover with seven cups water, and bring to a simmer. Cover partially, turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 40 minutes, or until the peas are tender (my peas were tender after about 20 minutes, so check as you cook).
Meantime, wash 2 bunches kale. Remove the tough center stems and roughly chop the leaves however you like. When the blackeyed peas are tender, add the greens to the pot with 2 teaspoons salt. Stir the greens in completely and bring back to a boil; then turn heat to low, cover, and cook 30 minutes more (again, check after 20 minutes or so to see if the greens are tender enough to eat; you don't want the blackeyed peas to fall completely apart).
When it's time to serve the blackeyed peas and greens, make a tiganissi (fried garnish): Heat 3 tbs olive oil in a small skillet over medium high. When it is hot, add a dried chile and stir for 5 seconds. When it turns dark (much longer than 5 seconds for me--maybe 30) add 1 small onion, finely chopped, and 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped; cook, stirring, until the onion and garlic are beginning to turn brown at the edges. Immediately pour the contents of the skillet over the blackeyed peas and greens; add a big squeeze of lemon juice, stir, and serve.