Every year, my family celebrates New Year’s Day with black eyed pea soup. According to folklore, the expansion of these legumes portends an increase in wealth over the next year. Unsurprisingly, feasting on beans has become a part of the New Year ritual, ensuring good luck for those who partake in it. Now, culinary divination is all well and good, but I’m into feeling nourished and lucky all year round. So let’s embrace black eyed peas more often!
Black eyed peas benefit from soaking before being cooked, but it’s not essential. If you don’t soak them, just be aware that they will take longer to cook. Soaking beans, however, makes them easier to digest and helps to eradicate their uncomfortable side effect. When I soak my beans, I like to add an ounce or so of whey (leftover from cheese making or just poured off the top of a container of yogurt), which is also supposed to minimize leguminous flatulence. If you really don’t want to bother with dried beans, feel free to substitute two cans of black eyed peas that have been drained and rinsed.
Collards are a great addition to this soup. If added with the beans and broth, they will cook down to be quite tender. These greens are not only full of vitamins C and K, but studies at UC Berkeley have shown that they have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. Perfect for cold and flu season!
A few final notes: don’t salt your beans until they have finished cooking. Prematurely salting legumes causes them to remain tough and begin to crumble rather than achieve tenderness. Finally, a fun veggie fact for your next game of trivia: in Scotland, rutabagas are called “neeps”!
Enjoy the soup and stay warm everybody!
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
1 bunch collard greens or kale, stems removed, leaves cut into ribbons
4 carrots, cut into rounds
1 rutabaga or 1/2 squash, cut into medium cubes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fennel
1 pinch chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into small pieces
- Soak black eyed peas in enough water to cover with 3 inches or so to spare. I recommend soaking them in the morning so they’ll be ready at dinner time.
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to turn translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and rutabaga or squash (and ham if using) and cook until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the spices and stir. Cook another 2-3 minutes.
- Strain peas from the water and add to the pot along with the broth. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
- If you’re using collards, go ahead and add them to the pot now. If you’re using kale, don’t add it until the last minute before serving. Cook the soup for 45 minutes or until the peas are tender.
- Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your tastes.