Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ingredient 9 – Black Eyed Peas

Did you know black eyed peas are beans, not peas?  This tidbit didn’t really surprise me, but I never really gave the subject much thought.  Originally cultivated in West Africa, the black eyed pea was brought to Virginia in the 17th century.  The black eyed pea became popular across the South after the American Revolution and its consumption on New Years’ Day is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year.         

I decided to cook this week's ingredient in my Crockpot.  In my humble opinion, the Crockpot is a glorious invention.  During winter months, I routinely use mine to make copious amounts of chili.  I love coming home from work to a warm meal that is ready for my immediate consumption.  

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Black Eyed Peas and Ham
1 lb dried black eyed peas
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 ham steak
3 cups water
1 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno pepper
1 clove garlic
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
Fresh ground pepper

Begin by soaking the peas for approximately 6 hours.  In the spirit of full disclosure, this was the first time I had ever soaked my own beans and it was embarrassingly easy.  To soak, rinse the peas in a colander and place in bowl.  Cover peas with two inches of water and place in refrigerator.  Once in the refrigerator, go do something fun.  I went and saw Argo.    
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Once the 6 hours have elapsed, wander back into your kitchen and remove the beans from the refrigerator and gather your ingredients.  Fry the ham steak in a touch of butter, 3 minutes per side (medium heat).

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While the ham is cooking, chop the onion, jalapeño, and garlic.

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Next, cut the ham into bite sized pieces.  Place the ham, beans, diced tomatoes, chopped vegetables, and water in the Crockpot.  

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Add the cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper and gently stir with a spoon or spatula.  Once combined, place bay leaves in pot, cover, and cook on low for 7 hours.
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My Crockpot switched from low to keep warm about the time I left for work on Monday.  When I returned home the contents were warm but not dried out.  A few weeks prior, I made a Crockpot sweet potato breakfast casserole that was a real pain to clean up after, so I was happy to discover an easy clean up was in my future.

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I served cornbread and steamed spinach with my peas and ham.  The peas had a fair amount of spice.  You could reduce the cumin and cayenne by half, if spicy dishes aren't your thing.  If you need more heat, Tabasco sauce would be a good addition. 

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I am looking forward to another bowl of this hearty dish tonight.  Overall grade: B+.               

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