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Ode to the Humble, Fighting Pea: Recipes for the New Year

Black-Eyed Peas

I’m sure there’s a legend somewhere about the black-eyed pea, and how it got its black eye fighting for some noble cause. (Rather like something that Rudyard Kipling might write, given his Just So Stories.) Even though they won, they still got a black eye.

They also have a bit of a “black eye” as reputation, at least with certain people. Not everybody likes them, it seems. I can’t see why. I suspect it’s because these poor, benighted folk never had flavorful black-eyes. Just bland, over-cooked ones. Or something.

I could try to give the history of this noble bean, or a major treatise on the nutritional benefits of eating them all year ’round. When it comes to convincing the skeptics, though, these strategies simply don’t work. (Believe me, I’ve tried; I’ve used these and many others on the largest skeptic I know, my father-in-law. No dice.)

I have found something, though, that should turn the tide with the nay-sayers. Several somethings, in fact; and three of them are given below:

Slow-cooking any bean somehow makes them better. Starting them out with balsamic vinegar really pushes the envelope. And finally, adding chipotle chiles makes them irresistable. Try our Sassy variety on New Year’s and you’ll want them regularly throughout the year.

Hoppin’ John is a dish with a grand pedigree, for what’s often called “poor-folk food.” According to What’s Cooking, America, the dish has African, French and Caribbean roots. A Southern specialty, it’s now available fairly widely at New Year’s. This Texas variation pays homáge to its rich roots, while kicking the zest up a notch or six, as the refined palate of any cosmopolitan Texan requires.

Texas Caviar has become a mainstay at parties and football watching sessions (which are often an excuse to eat and drink with friends, with some loud noise in the background) many places. Shoot, even Yankees eat the stuff. Unfortunately, there are too many “quick” versions of the recipe floating around. A purist might even take exception to the CU version above; it uses canned veggies, after all. Some would say it isn’t authentic Texas Caviar unless you use dried peas and fresh kernel corn. (If you’re that snarky rabid a Texas Caviar maven, then bring it on over to the CU World Headquarters and we’ll have us a Throwdown that even Bobby Flay would watch from the sidelines. I’m ready.) In any case, do not eat anything that calls itself “Cowboy Caviar” or uses Eye-talian (Get it? EYE?? I crack me up.) Dressing from a bottle.

Fix any of these three dishes and you’ll have a much better year in 2011. Luck, riches and romance; all from the humble black-eyed pea. Just remember to leave exactly three peas on your plate when you’re done…

Enjoy the (Tasty New Year’s Peas) Heat!

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