Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cooking to Save the Planet: Black-Eyed Peas and Collards Curry

Say that you have some of your new year's day good-luck dishes--black-eyed peas and collard greens--still hanging around four days into the new year.  What would you choose to do with them as the week winds down, I wonder?  Here's what I've done today, with a bow of thanks in the direction of Sonje, who reminded me in a comment several days ago of the powerful virtue of a good, hot curry when one has a nasty cold.

I had some two cups of black-eyed peas, with their broth, left from our new year's day good-luck dinner.  Steve cooked them, since he was well at that point.  Our roles have now reversed.  He now has my bad cold just as mine is waning.  We also had about a cup of collard greens he had cooked to go along with the peas, since green brings additional luck.

Have I said I don't really like black-eyed peas?  I don't.  They're bland and mealy, and I eat them only for good-luck on new year's day and occasionally add them to vegetable soups during the rest of the year.  So thinking of a way to add flavor and texture is important to me, if I'm to face having them a second go-round.

And so here's what I did with our leftovers today: I drained the black-eyed peas and collards, reserving their cooking liquids in case I needed additional liquid for the curry sauce.  Meanwhile, in a bit of olive oil mixed with butter, I fried two sliced carrots, a diced bell pepper, a chopped onion, and half an apple, diced.  I added the onion after the other vegetables/fruit had begun to soften a bit, since it takes less cooking time to soften.

As these began to soften, I added about a cup of crushed tomatoes, three toes of finely chopped garlic, and a good dollop of prepared curry powder, which I augmented with cayenne pepper, ground cumin, some ground cinnamon, and salt.  When the vegetables had softened and the sauce had begun to thicken, I then added the black-eyed peas, collards, and a baked potato we had on hand, cut into cubes.  I heated these in the sauce until they were piping hot, and I then served the curry with rice.  I also sprinkled over the curry a layer of chopped green coriander leaves/cilantro.

We both found the dish delicious and wonderfully head-clearing.  I certainly don't make any claims that this is an authentic Indian curry, or that it's special in any way.  It did turn out to be, however, a nifty way to make use of leftover black-eyed peas and collards, neither of which holds great attraction for me in its primitive, non-curried state--particularly as a leftover.  I did, by the way, end up adding some of the broth from the black-eyed peas when the sauce thickened too much.  I didn't add the collards' pot liquor, since it's strong and would have given the curry an excessive collard taste, I suspect.

We happen to have on hand some glazed spiced pecans a cousin sent me for Christmas, and they were a wonderful topping in addition to the coriander leaves.  I don't know precisely what went into their making, but if I had to guess, my cousin sautéed the pecan halves a while in a good bit of butter and added, as she did so, a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce, a clove or two of garlic sliced (with the slices removed at the end), salt, cayenne pepper, and ground cumin.

When the pecan halves began just to brown a bit, she probably then transferred them to the oven to finish crisping.  My wonderful Aunt Kat made glazed pecans every year at Christmas time, and this is more or less how she did them, though hers were not spiced, but were glazed with a mix of vegetable oil and corn syrup and then salted.

The preceding curry could surely be made with lentils or chickpeas as well as black-eyed peas.  And I imagine all the luck accruing to any black-eyed pea would transfer niftily to a lentil or a chickpea, too.

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