Food for thought

(Jan. 11, 2019) The chaotic holidays are officially over and life is back to normal.

My schedule is no longer slammed. Getting up at 4 a.m. sure beats 2 a.m.

My Christmas tree has headed for its final resting place, there are no more packages to wrap, and stores are no longer packed with irritable customers.

My gas stove is no longer rocking throughout the night and no more last-minute trips to the grocery store. You would think when one has two refrigerators, two freezers and two pantries you would have everything you need.

And, I no longer have to explain why I prefer to spend New Year’s Eve in the comforts of my home.

Yes, the holidays are wonderful but at the same time, it’s nice to get back to a state of normalcy.

While we are on the subject of New Year’s, there is a particular vegetable that does not get the recognition it deserves.

Black-eyed peas are a tradition at this time of the year, they are eaten for good luck and symbolize prosperity.

But why do we not devour the “pea” year-round? Fresh black-eyed peas are delicious and amazingly tender. Their soft outer skin allows the beans to soak up surrounding sauces which gives the beans more depth of flavor.

Dried black-eyed peas are also tasty; they just take more preparation time due to the soaking process. It’s best to soak the beans overnight in salted water.

However, I am not a fan of canned black-eyed peas. The flavor and texture do not compare to the fresh or dried versions.

Inquisition is the foundation for progression. Following are some interesting facts for further knowledge.

Although called a pea, it is actually a bean. These legumes are extremely nourishing, both to people and to the soil.

According to an article, “Prosperity Starts with A Pea,” by Jessica Harris, this American tradition originated in West Africa. From there, black-eyed peas traveled to the Americas by way of the slaves; this African staple was a major source of food for the long journey.

Harris goes on to say that by the early 1700s, black-eyed peas were observed growing in the Carolina colonies.

As in Africa, they were often planted at the borders of the fields to minimize weeds and enrich the soil. This is why black-eyed peas are sometimes referred to as cowpeas or field peas.

Like many other dishes native to African inspiration, black-eyed peas made their way to the master’s table.

Harris’s research led her to the 1824 edition of, “The Virginia House,” by Mary Randolph. Randolph suggests the peas were shelled, boiled and drained, and then mashed into cakes for frying and garnished with thin bits of fried bacon.

Today, Hoppin’ John, a Carolina specialty made with black-eyed peas and rice and seasoned with smoked pork, is probably the most well-known black-eyed pea dish. But there are so many other delectable combinations.

Black-eyed pea hummus is yummy and so versatile. Last year, I hosted a Preakness party and served Black-Eyed Susan cocktails along with black-eye pea hummus. The black-eyed pea hummus was a huge hit!

This year-round dip is easy to make. The secret is to simmer the black-eyed peas in chicken stock. If you are a vegetarian, substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock. The dip can be served with pita chip, crackers, or assorted vegetables.

In closing, if you think black-eyed peas are just for New Year’s Day, think again.

*The following recipes calls for tahini. Tahini is a thick past-like sauce made from sesame seeds, with a little bit of oil mixed in to make it the right consistency. Most super markets carry this product in the international section.

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

Ingredients

3 tablespoons minced garlic in a jar

16 ounces fresh or dried black-eyed peas

6 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnishing

2 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus extra for garnishing

3 teaspoons favorite hot sauce

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

crackers, pita chips, or assorted vegetables to accompany the hummus

1. If using dried beans, soak them overnight in salted water. Drain. Cook in chicken stock until very tender. If using fresh black-eyed peas, simmer in chicken stock for 30 minutes. Drain.

2. In a medium bowl, blend the garlic, black-eye peas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, paprika, hot sauce, salt and pepper until it has the consistency of a puree. If it is a little thick, add a touch more olive oil.

3. Place hummus in a small serving bowl. Using the back of a small spoon, make a circular indentation in the hummus. Add olive oil so it floats on top of the hummus. Add a few sprinkles of paprika and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or fresh vegetables.

Secret Ingredient – Individuality. “Embrace the virtues of individuality.”

– A.E Samaan

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