The item I pulled out and didn’t put back in yesterday was a container of marinated black-eyed peas that I’d frozen after my annual New Years Day Black-eyed Peas open house. I have this party every year (though 2021 will most probably be an exception), and every year it’s the same menu. It’s all about the black-eyed peas, which, in the Texas tradition, we eat for good luck. But in Texas they cook theirs with ham hocks; I cook mine with garlic, onion and bay leaf and serve them as a warm salad with a cumin-scented vinaigrette. I serve a big cheese board alongside, and another simple salad of carrots, steamed and marinated in sherry vinegar and olive oil, and tossed with fresh mint. There’s lots of bread, and something sweet – cookies, chocolates, and a big bowl of tangerines.
I always make a quadruple recipe of the black-eyed peas for this event, as I’m never sure how many people will show up. Invariably, I have lots left over. Long before the guests arrive I toss all of the peas in the dressing, but I hold off on adding the chopped peppers and cilantro to half of them so that if I do have a lot left over they will freeze nicely.
This is what I pulled from my freezer. I had forgotten all about them but they were no worse for wear after being frozen for five months. I had some bell peppers and cilantro on hand so it was easy to make my traditional salad. Dinner was ready in no time. Hopefully we got a good helping of luck along with the pleasure we took in this meal.
Black-Eyed Peas Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette
Yield: Serves 6
For the beans:
1 medium onion, cut in half
3 or 4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 pound black-eyed peas, washed and picked over
1 bay leaf
2 quarts water
Salt to taste
For the dressing and salad:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 teaspoons lightly toasted cumin, ground
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup broth from the beans
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1. Combine the onion, garlic, black-eyed peas, bay leaf and the water in a soup pot or Dutch oven and bring to a gentle boil. Skim off any foam from the surface of the water. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Add salt to taste (I start with 2 teaspoons; usually I add a little more). Cover and simmer until the beans are tender but not falling apart, usually about 10 to 15 more minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust salt. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion and bay leaf. Carefully drain the beans through a colander or strainer set over a bowl. Transfer to a large salad bowl.
2. In a pyrex measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and mustard. Whisk in the bean broth, then the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little more vinegar if you wish. Stir the dressing into the warm beans. Stir in the bell peppers and cilantro, and serve, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
Advance preparation: The beans will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator; toss them with the vinaigrette, but if you aren't serving them right away, wait and add the cilantro and red pepper just before serving. They will freeze, either in their broth or in the vinaigrette, for 6 months or longer.