Tuesday, August 12

Lebanese Black Eyed Peas with Greens

I'm eating these as leftovers, and I'm reminded of how utterly delicious they were. This is simple food, not a sophisticated dish--I'd be quite impressed if anyone can make black eyed peas taste sophisticated. However they are also delightfully easy to cook. Although many people seem unaware of this, you don't need to soak black eyed peas. After around 40 minutes of boiling, they are ready. For this reason, they are a great last-minute-dinner bean. I'm always on the lookout for good black eyed pea recipes.

This recipe is from Claudia Roden's "Arabesque", a book which I love so much that I actually bought it. And that's saying a lot, as far as cookbooks are concerned. I rarely buy cookbooks: I get them from the library and record my favorite recipes into a recipe application. This is because I know how easy it is to end up with too many cookbooks. How can I explain why I love "Arabesque" so much? Roden writes the most evocative and fascinating introductions to her cookbooks. I like the fact that there's one chapter for each of the three regions in this book (Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon), so that one can get a real sense of the flavors and styles of each. Most of the recipes are really quite simple--at least the meze recipes, of which there are so many, and which can easily be turned into a dinner. Likewise, even though the main dishes are strongly focused on meat (fish, chicken, and lamb), most of the mezes are vegetarian; some of them are clearly main dishes, though they're in the meze chapters. I'm particularly enjoying Middle Eastern food lately, and it's easy to blend with Mediterranean food and, with a little fiddling, Indian food. It's fun for Gordan since much of the food he grew up on in Bosnia is essentially Turkish. When it comes down to it, I want to cook just about every recipe in here.

Let's get to the food, shall we?

Lebanese Black Eyed Peas with Greens
adapted from Claudia Roden

1 1/2 cups black eyed peas (Roden suggests haricot beans or chickpeas as substitutes)
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, sliced (we used walla walla)
2 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
2 bunches of greens (ie spinach, chard, we used beet and mustard greens), washed, stems more or less removed, and dried
salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon's juice

Boil the black eyed peas for 40 minutes, with the bay leaf. When the beans are done, drain them, removing the bay leaf, salt them, and set them aside. You may want to reserve some of the bean's cooking water with which to moisten the dish later.

Fry the onion in two tablespoons of oil, until it is golden brown and caramelized.

In a fairly large saucepan, fry the garlic briefly in two tablespoons of oil. Toss in the greens and cover. When the greens have cooked down and are a brilliant green color a minute or two later, turn off the heat. Salt the greens. Stir in the black eyed peas and the onion. Taste and add more salt or cooking water if necessary.

To serve, drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice.

We ate this with long grain brown rice--which I meant to "prepare in the Syrian manner" which essentially means to add butter to it. However our butter was old, so we skipped that step.

And for dessert we had an experimental fruit salad:

1 cantaloupe
3 strawberries
a little more cinnamon than I meant to put in
a little more cardamom than I meant to put in
a little more cumin than I meant to put in
a good drizzle of honey
2 tablespoons grand marnier

Stir, allow to rest while dinner is eaten, and then enjoyed.

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