We have all ways of ushering in the new year, and food traditions are some of my favorites. From black-eyed peas and greens to lentils and cabbage, they all have a common element of wishing fortune and good health. One of my favorite ways to cook up black-eyed peas is to add some ginger, curry and coconut milk. This time of year, you can often find fresh, shelled black-eyed peas in the produce section.
If using fresh or frozen, know that your cook time will be shorter than when cooking dried peas. When using dried peas and beans, make sure they’re not older than a year, or they will take much longer to cook and some might not soften at all. Dry beans can be soaked overnight in water, or you can use the quick-soak method: pour boiling water to cover dried peas in a bowl and let sit for one hour. Discard any hard or wrinkled-looking beans that didn’t hydrate properly. Drain and proceed with recipe.
Coconut black-eyed peas
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 carrot, cleaned and sliced
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tart green Granny Smith apple, cored and roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons hot curry powder or garam masala
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked through (or fresh or frozen — see note above)
5 cups water
1 large, juicy orange
3/4 cup to 1 whole 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Garnishes: chopped red onion, lime wedges, chopped fresh jalapeños
1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat; add carrot, onion, ginger, garlic and apple. Stir and let cook about three minutes, being careful not to brown. Add curry powder. Add black-eyed peas and water, stir and bring to a boil. Skim froth, reduce heat and let simmer about 40 minutes or until peas are almost tender. Stir occasionally, mashing some of the peas on side of pot for creaminess. Note: If using fresh or frozen peas, reduce water to 4 cups and start taste testing after 30 minutes; adjust seasoning and add more liquid if peas need to cook longer.
2. Add zest from a quarter of the orange, then cut orange in half and squeeze juice into peas. Add coconut milk and stir. Let simmer, covered, another 7 to 10 minutes or until peas are tender.
While peas are cooking the last 10 minutes, make rice or thick pieces of toast. Taste peas and adjust seasoning, as needed. Serve with rice or toast, and, if desired, fresh cilantro, lime wedges or jalapeño. Peas can be made up to three days in advance; add a little more liquid before reheating.