Sometimes I get the feeling that too many people eat black-eyed peas annually — on New Year’s Day. While I love the Southern tradition of black-eyed peas and rice (hoppin’ John), often eaten with greens, I’m here to say that black-eyed peas deserve a place in your repertoire the rest of the year, too.
Don’t get caught up in the need to cook them from dried. You can certainly do that if you have the time — or a pressure cooker — but there’s no shame in opening a can on any given weeknight. However you get there, black-eyed peas are a no-brainer with rice, of course, or whatever grain you prefer. Their sturdy texture makes them a natural in summery salads, too, and this time of year they can star in soups.
Take this one, from cookbook author Gennaro Contaldo. It’s simple at its core, just a nice combination of aromatic vegetables and herbs, vegetable broth and a can of black-eyed peas, pureed into something creamy but without cream. What takes the dish up a notch is the olive pesto you quickly blitz while the soup cooks. It’s sharp and a little crunchy, and when you dollop some on top and stir it in, the soup goes from good to glorious.
Add some bread and/or a salad, and you’ve got a hearty winter meal. Just don’t wait until New Year’s Day 2020 to make it, please.
MAKE AHEAD: The finished soup and pesto can be refrigerated, separately, for up to 1 week or frozen, separately, for up to 3 months. Defrost and warm the soup over low heat; bring the pesto to room temperature before serving.
NOTE: See Scrappy Vegetable Broth.
FOR THE SOUP
1leek, white and light-green parts, trimmed
1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1small carrot, scrubbed well and chopped
Leaves from 1 stem fresh thyme
115-ounce can no-salt-added black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
2 1⁄2cupshomemade or store-bought no-salt-added vegetable broth (see NOTE)
1⁄2teaspoonkosher salt, or more as needed
1⁄4teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
FOR THE PESTO
1 1⁄4cupspitted green olives
1⁄4cuplightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1tablespoonextra-virgin olive oil
For the soup: Cut the leek in half lengthwise, rinse thoroughly (including between the layers), pat dry and then chop.
Pour the oil into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the leek, garlic, carrot and thyme, and cook until the vegetables start to become tender, for 4 minutes.
Stir in the black-eyed peas and pour in the broth. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the vegetables are very tender and the flavors have come together, 15 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, make the pesto: Combine the olives, parsley, garlic, capers and oil in a food processor or blender; pulse until well incorporated but still a little chunky.
To finish the soup, use an immersion (stick) blender to puree until smooth. Taste, and add more salt as needed.
Divide the soup among bowls. Top each portion with a generous dollop of the olive pesto.
Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to email@example.com.
Adapted from “Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian,” by Gennaro Contaldo (Interlink Books, 2018).
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Calories: 230; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 530 mg; Carbohydrates: 23 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 6 g.