Update 12-31-14: I re-made this today to take to a new year's potluck gathering, adding smokey ham and substituting rich chicken stock. I left out the red bell peppers and added 4 diced carrots to the saute. It's rich, earthy, and has a wonderful salty-smokey element from the ham. Happy New Year!
Black-eyed peas, especially in the form of Hoppin' John, are traditionally served on New Year's Day as a symbol of prosperity and good luck during the coming year. Originally a southern dish, it has gained popularity and can be seen in many recipes this time of year across the country. What I've made here is a very loosely-based compilation of some of those recipes.
For my rendition of Hoppin' John, made for a crowd of 18, I started with tubs of Melissa's black-eyed peas, available in most supermarkets this time of year. Traditionally prepared with bits of inexpensive meat, I omitted the meat entirely, making it vegetarian/vegan friendly, and gave it a kick with a bit of cayenne and Meyer lemon juice.
This makes a great side dish any time that black-eyed peas are available so don't put it off just because New Year's Day is almost over.
Here's to your good health, good luck and prosperity in 2009!
Vegetarian Hoppin' John
Christine's original recipe
Serves a crowd of 10 or more as a side dish
4 11-ounce tubs of black-eyed peas, cooked
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4-5 stalks celery, tough strings removed, diced small
2 large red bell peppers, seeded, deveined and diced small
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1 to 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you wish)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (canola may be used instead)
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional, but it's mighty good)
For each tub of peas, put 2 1/2 cups of water in a large stock pot. I cooked all 4 tubs in 10 cups of unsalted water.
Bring the water to a boil then add the black-eyed peas and give a gentle stir. Allow the water to return to a boil then reduce the heat so the peas simmer for about 10 minutes or until tender.
Drain the peas well and return to the stockpot.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a large heavy skillet (I always use cast iron) over medium-high heat.
Add the chopped onions and celery and sauté for 3 minutes.
Add the garlic and red bell peppers and sauté until just tender. Don't overcook.
Add the sautéed vegetables to the hot peas and stir gently.
Add the Meyer lemon juice and the cayenne pepper, stir to blend.
Put the mixture over medium-low heat and add the water or broth a little at a time until it reaches a consistency you can live with. The peas will absorb most or all of the liquid.
Adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Serve as a side dish accompanied by steamed rice and greens for truly traditional southern fare.
If you wish to prepare just 1 11-ounce tub of peas, adjust your sauté by about one quarter. That said, the ratio of veggies to peas could be as much or as little as you like.
Should you have leftovers, you can buzz them in a blender the next day to make a spectacular spread for crackers or crusty bread.
I just happen to have cilantro growing in my garden (still!) and even though I share it with my cilantro-loving chickens, I had enough to use here. Lucky me.
One more thing that I forgot to add: Hoppin' John may be made much more stew-like by adding more broth. You can serve it over steaming hot rice for a more traditional feast. Be sure to adjust the seasonings accordingly.
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