PARIS -- No matter where I am in the world, when I call my mom on New Year's Day to wish her a Happy New Year -- as I've done for as long as I can remember -- the first thing that she always says is, "Have you had your peas?"
Eating black-eyed peas -- or hoppin' John, simply black-eyed peas with rice, and served with jalapeño cornbread -- is a Southern tradition that has been around even longer than I have. The idea is the same as with eating coin-shaped lentils in Italy and France -- to ensure good fortune for the new year.
Mom doesn't have to remind me about eating my black-eyed peas. I love them so much that I make them year-round here in Paris (I'm so happy that I can find them at the African markets). I prepare them in my oversize slow-cooker, along with a big piece of smoky ham, some onions, garlic and peppers. When I walk in the door after a day of running errands all over town, it smells like home.
But I usually make so much -- dried beans and peas come in 1 kilo sacks, which is a little more than 2 pounds -- that not long ago, I wanted to come up with other things to do with my favorite pea besides mix it with rice.
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So I swapped the black-eyed peas out with chickpeas and made hummus spiked with jalapeño peppers and sun-dried tomatoes; then I warmed them up and tossed them in an arugula salad, and added cornbread croutons, bacon and a homemade jalapeño-buttermilk dressing.
The more I thought about what I could do with them, the more ideas I had -- I could refry them, just as I did with black beans, and use them for nachos, tostadas or a Tex-Mexy side; I could make black-eyed pea cakes and top them with shrimp or crab; I could make black-eyed pea burgers; or add them to a soup with pasta and make the Italian peasant classic, pasta e fagioli.
As new recipes popped into my head, and I wrote them down as fast as I could, I realized that my good luck had already arrived -- I was living in Paris, after all, and making black-eyed peas, just like I always have. And starting to speak French like I never have before.
Black-eyed pea hummus
Hummus is a staple in my fridge; I like to spread it on toasted bread or stuff it into a pita for a sandwich, or serve it as an appetizer with pita chips. But I often buy it pre-made at the deli down the street, bring it home and doctor it up. As I put this recipe together, I remembered how easy it was to do myself -- and I love the unexpected twist of using black-eyed peas instead of chickpeas.
3 cups black-eyed peas, cooked and drained (see note)
1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/4 cup olive oil (plus a bit more for drizzling on top when serving)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
3 pickled jalapeños (optional)
10 sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
1. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If you'd like to add the jalapeños and sun-dried tomatoes, chop them up and fold them into the mixture by hand.
(Note: You may use canned black-eyed peas.)
Nutritional analysis per 1-tablespoon serving: 45 calories, 3 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 56 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 63 percent of calories from fat.