I’d like to introduce you to my friend, the black-eyed pea. Actually a bean, these guys are packed with protein and fiber, as well as magnesium, iron, and calcium, and they taste awesome.
I’m not trying to Columbus black-eyed peas: to people in the south and African American communities across the country these legumes are old news. But I know a lot of people (yeah, mostly white people) who love their quinoa and chickpeas but don’t know how to cook black-eyed peas. Consider this an introduction for the uninitiated.
Like any beans, if you’re starting from dried you’ll want to rinse and then soak the beans overnight or quick-soak them by putting them in a pot of water, boiling them for a minute or two, and then removing from heat and letting them sit in the water for an hour. Typically people rinse the peas between soaking and cooking, but I consider that step optional.
I start with oil, aromatics and spices before I add in my soaked beans. Onion, garlic, and olive oil are always a great start! These guys can soak up a lot of flavor before anything overwhelms their mellow, bean-y flavor, so pack on the spices: paprika, cumin, and chipotle make a nice smoky, spicy combo. Andouille sausage, bacon, and brown sugar are all nice additions as well.
You’ll want your beans to be covered in liquid (water or broth) and simmering for an hour to an hour and a half. The proper texture here is soft but with a bit of a bite. After an hour I check in and try a bean for texture and flavor, and keep tasting them until I think they’re done. They’ll want a good amount of salt and pepper to brighten the flavor, and don’t be afraid to load on some more spices if you taste them and they’re flat. There’s other options if you’d like punchier peas, too: this recipe tops them with chard and a cilantro-chile herb smash that plays off the earthy bean flavor really well.
Traditional black-eyed peas can form the bulk of an entrée in hoppin’ john or black-eyed pea soup, or can make a terrific side dish. At home, I’ll make a batch to pair with a piece of salmon or tilapia and cover both beans and fish with cilantro pesto, or I’ll eat black-eyed peas with chard or Brussels sprouts that I cooked with lemon juice and garlic. Consider black-eyed peas a more proteinaceous alternative to quinoa, brown rice, or couscous and combine with your favorite meats and veggies.