Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares a favorite black-eyed pea salad. Perfect for hot summer days! ~Elise
I spent much of my life thinking that black-eyed peas were a Southern thing, and then I worked in an Ethiopian restaurant, where the African clientele told me that black-eyed peas actually come from Africa. Years later, I began cooking Greek food – and imagine my surprise to find all sorts of dishes using black-eyed peas! I have no idea how they became so popular in Greece, but there you go.
This is not any sort of traditional Greek recipe, more of a Greek-inspired side dish or light vegetarian supper I’ve done in various forms over the years. I love black-eyed peas because they cook very fast and need no pre-soaking the way a lot of regular beans do.
My cooking method is a little unorthodox, but it’s a trick I picked up from the renowned French food scientist Herve This. This (pronounced TEE-S) says that all beans cook best beneath a boil: That means no simmering even, just steam. I cook all beans this way, but doing so means it can take hours and hours for some beans to soften. But black-eyed peas are often tender within 20 minutes. Why bother with this technique? Because it results in perfectly cooked beans that are tender but whole; you will get very few broken or dissolved beans this way.
If you are in a hurry, go ahead and use canned beans, but be sure to rinse them well.
I also use sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil here, which is important – don’t use totally dried tomatoes, as you want them to be sliceable, and you will use the oil in the salad. Can you substitute fresh tomatoes? By all means, especially when they are in season.
I’ve played around with the green thing in this salad a lot, and have found that while spinach is a familiar green for people, almost anything works: Looseleaf lettuces, purslane, parsley, arugula, watercress, etc.
A final tip: Don’t add the lemon juice until you serve the salad: It helps keep the greens bright.
You can substitute canned black-eyed peas for the dry peas. Use approximately two 15-ounce cans. Rinse thoroughly. Skip step 1 and step 3 in the method instructions.
- 2 cups dry black-eyed peas
- 1 package of feta cheese, about 7 ounces
- 1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, about 8 ounces
- 1 cup black olives, preferably Kalamata or oil-cured
- 1 finely chopped green onion
- 1 finely chopped garlic clove
- 1 large bunch of spinach, about 1 pound, washed, chopped
- Zest and juice of a lemon
1 Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to make the water taste like the sea. Turn the heat down to low and add the black-eyed peas. Let them cook slowly, uncovered, until they are done, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how old the peas are. Don’t let the water simmer.
2 Add the spinach to a large bowl. Crumble the feta cheese into the bowl and add all the other ingredients except the lemon juice. Mix well.
3 When the black-eyed peas are done, pour them into a colander and spray them with cold water to stop the cooking. Pick through and discard any loose skins or mashed peas; you’ll find a few, but hopefully not many.
4 Add the black-eyed peas to the salad, mix well and serve. Squirt some lemon juice over each serving before you take them to the table.