Black-eyed peas and winter greens come together for a bowlful of good luck and prosperity in the new year, which, even if you’re not superstitious, might make you think twice after the year we’ve endured. Either way, may this bowl of warming soup — with its hearty winter greens and earthy peas — sustain you through the winter months.
This time of year, look for fresh, shelled black-eyed peas in the produce section; frozen are a good alternative. If starting from scratch with dried peas, make sure to soak in water overnight — or go for a quick-soak method, where you cover peas/dried beans with hot water to cover for one hour before draining and cooking — and adjust cooking time accordingly (dried peas will take longer to cook).
As for flavor profile, I like this clean-slate version, which is meatless, but you can easily add in a variety of vegetables and flavor combos — a can of good tomatoes and a rind of Parmesan? Or perhaps some coconut milk and ginger? If you want to add a smoked turkey thigh or leg, toss it in. A smoked ham hock works, too, but is best boiled separately before removing the meat and adding it to the soup. Keep some of the stock from boiling the ham hock to add to the peas, but taste it first, as it could be very salty depending on how it was cured/smoked. Garnish, just before serving, with a vinegar and onion combo for textural contrast and some zing.
11 to 16 ounces shelled black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen (see note above)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
3/4 cup (about 1/2 medium) onion, diced, or leek, rinsed and sliced
3/4 cup diced carrot or parsnip (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup diced celery (about 1 to 2 stalks)
2 to 3 large garlic cloves
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
2 1/2 quarts / 10 cups chicken or turkey stock, vegetable broth, or water
1 bunch fresh greens such as collard (about 8 leaves), mustard or kale
Optional: smoked ham hock or smoked turkey thigh/leg
For garnish: Combine in a small bowl, 1 to 2 tablespoons diced onion and add vinegar to cover; flake salt; good olive oil
Rice and hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Rinse peas and discard any that are discolored, shriveled or mushy. If using frozen, remove from freezer and place in colander and rinse.
Heat oil/butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Chop onion — reserve about 2 tablespoons in a small bowl for garnishing — and add to pot along with carrot and celery; stir and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and black-eyed peas. Season with one teaspoon salt (if using ham hock or smoked turkey, start with 1/2 teaspoon and taste later, as hocks tend to be salty) and 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Add turmeric, if using, and stock and, if using, smoked turkey (see note above if using a ham hock). Bring to a medium boil (this can take 5 to 10 minutes), skim froth from the surface using a large spoon and discard froth.
When liquid comes to a low boil, tear greens and finely dice the stems, if desired, and add to the pot. Let cook on medium to medium-low (you want a consistent gentle bubble at the surface), stirring occasionally, about 1 hour, until peas and greens are tender. If using, remove turkey from soup and cut off meat and add back to the pot. Taste and add more salt or pepper or garlic, as desired. Serve with steamed rice, crackers, flatbread, garlic bread. Garnish with chopped onion and vinegar; a drizzle of good olive oil and some flake salt, if desired, and hot sauce, such as Tabasco, Crystal or Frank’s RedHot.