BY PATSY R. BRUMFIELD – THE SOUTHFACIN’ COOK
Old-school Southern cooking required copious amounts of lard and/or bacon fat on lots of different kind of vegetables. It was delicious, but also a heart attack in the making. I’ve converted recipes like this to be a healthier option without losing any great taste.
On a slow Sunday afternoon, make a big batch of these and freeze them in dinner-sized portions to microwave when you don’t have much time. They are incredibly good with corn bread, and I’m not embarrassed to say I use the well-known boxed brand my part-French grandmother would be horrified to know has sugar in it. It’s delicious, Grama, wherever you are.
- Small-medium dutch oven
- Wooden spoon
- Chopping board
- Chopping knife
- Measuring equipment
- 16 ounces package dried blackeye peas
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 32-oz low-sodium, chicken broth or veg broth (I prefer chicken)
- salt, pepper
- 1 cup water (maybe more, as needed)
LET’S GET STARTED:
Rinse dried peas. Pour off water.
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into dutch oven. Over medium heat “sweat” onions 5-8 mins. (Sweating just softens the onions. It doesn’t brown them.)
Add sliced carrots, garlic, bay leaves, pinch salt, pepper, sugar.
Pour peas into dutch oven, then broth to cover peas. (Remember, do not cook dried beans or peas with too much heat. If you do, they will never get tender enough.)
Bring to low simmer over medium heat. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn down the heat to low and cook partially covered. (Peas will cook much faster than the package directions tell you. In this case, probably 1 hour.)
Like red beans (recipe), stir peas about every 10 minutes and add more liquid (that’s what extra water is for) as the peas absorb it. Keep liquid just covering peas.
After about 30 minutes, taste the broth and consider if you need to adjust flavors like salt and pepper. About 10 minutes before the peas are done, add juice of one lemon.
Be sure to have pepper sauce to drizzle over the top. This can be Tabasco, but most folks like the kind made from hot green banana peppers bottled in vinegar. When you use all the liquid, don’t buy another. Just add more vinegar since not many people eat the peppers.
This spicy concoction is an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres by using a seriously Southern side, blackeye peas, with a bit of humor. Go ahead and make the peas at your leisure, then divide them into desired serving sizes and freeze them for convenience. Save some 2-cup sizes and mark them for Southern caviar. Each ought to be enough for a small group of guests, provided you’ve got some other things to nibble on.
- Medium bowl
- Chopping board
- Chopping knife
- Measurement equipment
- Cereal bowl
- Stirring spoon
- 2 cups cooked blackeye peas (use recipe posted above)
- 1/2 red bell pepper, minced
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Green peppers – 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno or use 4-6 small green peppers in your bottle of vinegary pepper sauce you use on greens like turnip or collard.
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
LET’S GET STARTED
On chopping board, cut bell pepper, onion into very small pieces.
In medium bowl, combine everything but blackeye peas.
Set your sieve on top of a cereal bowl, then pour blackeye peas into sieve and drain.
When that’s done, pour your drained peas into the other ingredients. Gently combine. (You don’t want to mush up your peas.)
Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a top, if it has one. Refrigerate at least 4-6 hours so flavors can blend.
Place your Southern caviar bowl onto a larger plate or tray, surrounding the bowl with toasted baguette slices or a substantial cracker like melba toast. Use a spoon for your guests to serve Southern caviar onto their toast slices or crackers.
Place your bread loaf on your cutting board and, using a bread knife, slice diagonally for a prettier toast on which to spoon your Southern caviar. Place slices on a cookie sheet. Using a small (kitchen-use) paint brush or teaspoon, thinly spread olive oil atop each slice. (I also sprinkle a little salt and other flavorings, like dried oregano and paprika atop.) Toast slices in a 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes. Watch closely to avoid burning. (You also can use this technique with flour tortillas you’ve cut into chips or triangles. Makes much better chips than you can buy.)
Come back every Wednesday for “Southfacin’ cook” at New in NOLA for Patsy’s basics to Southern cooking and eating. Contact her with suggestions, questions or requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous recipes from Patsy: