Black-eyed peas and cabbage - that is what usually shows up on our table for New Year's Day. I really don't understand it. I don't care a whole lot about black-eyed peas and cabbage is OK if it's coleslaw. So why do I cook this stuff and put in front of my family every January first? Tradition.
If you're into tradition, you probably already know how to cook black-eyed peas and steamed cabbage. If, like me, you question tradition but don't want to throw it out the window, this week's column may give you some ideas on how to change things up a little (without bringing bad luck to the family).
Here's a special tip my mother taught me - soak the peas overnight. Yep, you can pour the whole bag of peas into a large bowl and cover with water to soak. Now make sure your bowl is at least twice as big as what is needed to hold the peas. Cover the peas with water and about two inches above. They will soak up the water and become more like fresh peas. This will reduce your cooking time considerably. One other variation on softening up the peas is to bring them to a boil in a large pot for about five minutes. Turn off the heat and leave them covered in the pot for two or three hours. Drain them and proceed with your recipe.
For starters, if you aren't familiar with the traditional pot of black-eyed peas, here's a simple recipe that even the newest of cooks should be able to master. You can use the left-over ham from your Christmas meal as seasoning for this one.
3 cups water
1 pound dry black-eyed peas
1 and one-half cups diced, cooked ham
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse dried peas thoroughly, sorting any tiny pebbles or other debris. In a large stockpot, bring three cups of water to a boil with black-eyed peas with salt and pepper. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 1 and one-half hours, or until peas are tender. Stir ham into the peas, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed, and serve. Add water during cooking if needed to prevent scorching and burning.
If you're tired of the same old pot of peas, this next recipe may improve your opinion of this holiday main dish. It even calls for canned peas which makes preparation of this one a whole lot quicker and easier.
Black-eyed Pea Gumbo
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup brown rice
4 (15 ounce) cans black-eyed peas with liquid
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook the onion, pepper, and celery until tender. Pour in the chicken broth, and mix in rice, black-eyed peas with liquid, diced tomatoes and green chilies, diced tomatoes, and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes, or until rice is tender. Add water if soup is too thick.
As far as the cabbage thing is concerned, I prefer my cabbage in the form of coleslaw or sauerkraut. I don't like it steamed or boiled. It's a little too close the taste of turnips and collards for my liking. (We've covered the fact that I don't eat “greens” in this column before - sorry!) But if you like it cooked or raw, these next recipes may be something you've been looking for!
This first slaw recipe is one that is quick and easy. My slaw is pretty quick and easy, too. My family likes it when I just chop up some cabbage and add a little mayonnaise with salt and pepper to season. But if you want something with a little more pizzazz, give this one a try.
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
One-half tsp. ground black pepper
2 (16 ounce) packages shredded coleslaw mix
In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, sugar, celery seed and black pepper. Fold in the coleslaw mix, and refrigerate until serving. This tastes best if it is refrigerated for a few hours before serving
This next recipe is pretty close to what I do to cabbage for my husband and my mother. It's a traditional way to cook cabbage in the South. The only difference in this recipe and mine is that I don't use any sugar and I only use the bacon and its drippings for seasoning without adding any extra oil. I usually add a little bit of water, too, so that there will be something to soak up with the cornbread.
Southern Fried Cabbage
3 slices bacon, cut into thirds
One-third cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 head cabbage, cored and sliced
1 white onion, chopped
1 pinch white sugar
Place the bacon and vegetable oil into a large pot over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until bacon is crisp. Add cabbage, onion, and sugar to the pot; cook and stir continuously for 5 minutes, until tender.
Thank you for reading my recipes and giving me your comments. I have completed a full year of filling this space each week with recipes, tips and ideas. I hope that they have been interesting, tasty and entertaining for all you cooks out there. May God richly bless each of you in the coming year. May you have joy, good health and prosperity, now and always.
Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!!!
Lisa Tindell's cooking column appears each Wednesday in The S tandard. She may be reached at email@example.com.