By Susan Barocas©
Black-eyed peas are a centuries-old favorite legume of Sephardic cuisines and eaten at the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Seder in connection to the blessing for “increasing our merits” in the new year. Lentils or green beans might be used instead for the same blessing depending on family origins and traditions. A heat-loving crop, black-eyed peas grow easily in many places around the world, are highly nutritious and a symbol of good luck, prosperity and fertility in different cultures when they are eaten often on New Year’s Day. In the US, black-eyed peas are a favorite of Southern cooks, especially with rice in Hoppin’ John, but deserve to make their appearance in more dishes in other areas of the country. This is an easy make-ahead dish for holiday meals and gatherings or every-day eating.
1 pound dried or 4 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas
2 bay leaves
3-4 green onions
2 bell peppers of mixed colors (red, green, yellow, orange)
2-3 stalks celery
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice and zest from one medium lemon
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch or two of cayenne or Aleppo pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pomegranate arils (seeds) or chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
If using dried black-eyed peas, sort and wash in a strainer. Put into a 5 or 6 quart pot, add bay leaves and cover the peas with 7 to 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook peas, partially covered, about 45 minutes until just tender, but not mushy. When cooked, drain well in a strainer or colander, rinse with cool water to stop cooking.
If using canned peas, drain, then wash well with cool water and drain thoroughly.
While the peas cook, clean and dice the green onions into small pieces. Clean the pepper and celery and cut both into a small dice. Add the vegetables to a mixing bowl. Add the drained peas to the bowl and gently mix to blend ingredients.
To prepare the dressing, combine all the ingredients except the zest and optional granish in a bowl and whisk until emulsified, or put ingredients into a glass jar and shake vigorously until emulsified. Stir in the zest until blended. Taste and adjust seasonings, then pour into the pea mixture. Mix gently, but well, to incorporate. At this point, the salad should be refrigerated for several hours or up to 3 days in advance to give the flavors a chance to meld.
Serve cold or at room temperature with the salad in a pretty bowl, perhaps with some standing leaves of endive, or mounded on a platter with a circle of spinach, chopped romaine or Boston lettuce. This salad also makes good “finger food” or an appetizer. Place about a teaspoon on slices of crostini or place a small amount on the pointed end of endive leaves that are then arranged on a platter. Garnish salad with pomegranate arils or chopped parsley before serving if desired.