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Black Eye Peas

Black Eye Peas

Black eye Peas, also called field peas or cowpeas, are probably the most important African dietary contribution to American southern cooking. Black eye peas are actually not peas at all, but legumes that arrived in the Americas with slave ships from from West Africa. Black Eye Peas are traditionally eaten along with collard greens ( recipe click here) which has provided a nourishing food staple throughout the American south, the Caribbean, and  Central and South America since the 1690’s. Earlier varieties have thrived across  he Middle East and Asia.

Black eye pea plants are hearty and drought resistant. The peas are nutritive rich with vitamins, minerals, and protein. Prepared much like most other legumes and eaten with various local condiments, herbs, chilies, or pickled relishes. There are more collard greens and black eye peas consumed in” Hoppin John” every January first than any other day of the year here in the South. The green collards insure plenty of green backs and the black eye peas plenty of pocket change for the coming year.

Black eye peas are usually cooked with some variety of smoked pork, but are equally delicious omitting the pork and instead using smoked paprika and finely ground chipotle chile that adds a spicy smokiness to the finished dish. With a splash of cold pressed peanut oil and a spritz of lemon or lime juice just before serving, these black eye peas are sure to become a favorite choice to serve with almost any meal.

Black Eye Peas with Cod in Papapillote

Black Eye Peas with Cod in Papapillote

What I love about cooked black eye peas is their surprisingly fresh flavor not unlike young garden peas. There is nothing better than sitting down to a plate of black eye peas and a mess of collard greens to grasp the “soul” and goodness of real authentic Southern cooking.

Dried black eye peas are available in most supper markets. Spanish Smoked paprika and ground chipotle chile are available online.

Black Eye Peas      makes 2 quarts

  • 1 pound dried Black eye peas, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons cold pressed peanut oil + more for finishing
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 3 oz smoked pork or 4 strips bacon, diced (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile 
  • 3 quarts boiled water + more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3  teaspoons flaked (Kosher) salt + more to taste
  • lemon or lime wedges for serving

Rinse the black eye peas and set them aside to drain in a colander.

Place a stock pot on the stove top on medium heat. When hot add the 3 tablespoons of the oil and swirl the pan. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes or until the onions are wilted. Then stir in the garlic and saute another minute. If using, add the pork or bacon and continue to saute until the meat is incorporated and the fat is beginning to render. Otherwise do as I do and omit the pork.

Add the bay leaf, marjoram, and the ground chipotle chile and saute until well combined and fragrant.

Add enough boiled water to cover the contents of the pot generously and stir to combine. Then add the dried black eye peas and stir. Add more boiled water if needed to generously cover the peas. Bring the pot back to a very low boil and cook until the black eye peas are tender, but still holding their shape. I have found that generally dried black eye peas will require a shorter cooking time than most other dried beans, so test for d oneness more frequently to avoid over cooking the peas and be sure to add more boiled water only if needed.

Once the peas are done to your liking add the smoked paprika and several teaspoons of salt. Stir to combine and simmer another 10 minutes. Then taste the broth and add more salt as needed.

Serve the black eyed peas with a drizzle of peanut oil and a spritz of lemon or lime juice.

For Poisson en Papillote (click here)

Salted Dark chocolate Chip Cookies with Black Walnuts

Salted Dark chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies with Black Walnuts

 

last June I posted a recipe for Fig Tahini and Dark Chocolate Cookies with Orange Peel (See here) that was a winning combo of flavors that’s been begging for a reinterpretation ever since. So here is yet another chocolate and tahini cookie recipe, this time paired with black walnuts. The idea may seem like a bit of a stretch, but ounce the aroma of molten dark chocolate scented with rye and black walnuts is wafting through the kitchen and glistening chunks of warm chocolate catch your eye as you pull the cookies out of the oven the threads that bind these flavors together are apparent. As with all baking there is always some chemistry involved, but once you’ve got that down you can let your intuitive impulses take flight!

A few words about tahini are in order. Tahini is a “butter” gleaned from ground hulled roasted sesame seeds that dates back 4000 years in Mesopotamia. Tahini has been used throughout the Middle East and Asia ever since. Tahini has an impressive nutrient profile and today is best known as an essential ingredient used in making hummus (See recipe here). Tahini is widely available in specialty stores and online.

The texture of tahini will vary depending on the oil content. Generally, the sesame oil will float on top of the solids, much like it does in a jar of unprocessed peanut butter. The oil should always be thoroughly stirred into the solids before use. For baking in particular, the oil content of tahini is critical. Too much oil will make the tahini quite thin, in which case some of the oil should be removed before stirring. The ideal consistency for baking purposes would be a consistency of thick molasses, neither too stiff nor too runny. Any oil removed can be reserved for other uses.

The quality of the chocolate you use for baking also matters. The better the quality the better the results. The dark chocolate I prefer for baking is Callebaut chocolate from Belgium. For this recipe I’ve used dark chocolate discs; 70% . Callebaut chocolates are an excellent choice known for their deep rich flavor, and stability whatever the application. Available online and well worth the investment if you love to bake!

 

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies with Black Walnuts     makes 18 cookies

  • 4 oz/ 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup well stirred tahini (as noted above)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup + 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup buckwheat flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup black walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • flaked sea salt for finishing (optional

 

Place the butter, tahini, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix at medium speed for a few minutes until fluffy and well combined. Add the tahini and beat until combined.

Combine the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla in a small bowl and beat until combined. Add to the butter mixture and beat until just mixed in.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, rye flour, baking soda and salt and whisk until combined.

Begin slowly mixing the butter tahini mixture while adding the flour in three additions while continuing to mix until combined, but don’t over mix.

Then using a silicone spatula fold in the chocolate chips and the walnuts until evenly distributed through out the cookie dough. Mound the dough together and cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 c                    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, using a tablespoon, scoop out a heaping mounds of dough and place them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets; About 9 to a sheet.

Transfer the sheet of cookies to the preheated oven and bake for 12 to to 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet half way through the baking. The cookies will spread slightly while baking. The edges should be lightly browned and the centers just set. As always try not to over bake the cookies. They will appear to be very soft but will firm up as they cool on the baking sheet. Top with flaked sea salt (optional)

Ideally the cookies are best served at room temperature while the chocolate glistens and the texture of the cookies is soft and pliable.

Otherwise it is best to store in the cookies in an airtight container with parchment liners between layers in the refrigerator.

Butter Pecan cookies

Butter Pecan cookies

 

Pecans are the nuts harvested from native hickory trees found throughout the north, northeastern ,southern, and southern south western United States, and Mexico. Pecans have been a part of the native American diet long before European explorers arrived in the Americas. These elegant native hickory trees can grow over a hundred feet tall and live for more than a thousand years. The name pecan comes from the Algonquin Indian word pacane, meaning a nut that needs to be cracked with a stone.

Thomas Jefferson planted native hickory trees at his home “Monticello” in Virginia and shared some of his hickory nuts with George Washington who planted them at his Mount Vernon home.

The first successful grafting of native hickory trees was done by a slave gardener named Antoine at Oak Alley Plantation in Southern Louisiana around 1846 and a pecan industry was born. Today Georgia, Louisianan, and Texas produce about 80% of the world’s pecan supply, while Mexico produces the remaining 20%.

Pecans still reign supreme with home cooks and bakers throughout the American south. Favorite recipes include southern pecan pies, pecan pralines from New Orleans, pecans topping baked sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinners, and of course butter pecan ice cream and gilato. All these southern delights go hand in hand with hickory wood smoked Texas barbecues, a Louisiana Cajun gumbo or jambalaya, or a Gulf Coast shrimp crab and crayfish boil. This is real southern food you’ve got to love!

Pecans pack a load of healthy benefits as well. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Organic pecans are available from specialty shops and online. Pecans are a must have essential to keep on hand in your larder. Pecans are delicious roasted and salted, dded to salads, ground for coating baked poultry or fish, and of course for heavenly baked goods.

These butter pecan cookies are easy to make and a perfect accompaniment when served with a butter pecan gelato or for a summery peach and strawberry pecan short cake.

 

Butter Pecan cookie shortcake

Butter Pecan cookie shortcake

 

Butter Pecan Cookies     makes 24 cookies

preheat oven to 350 f/180 c with the rack set in the middle position

Have ready 2 baking sheets lined with parchment

Ingredients:

For the pecans:

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter 
  • 1½ cups whole pecan halves
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar

For the cookies:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon flaked / or kosher salt

To prepare pecans melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Swirl the pan until the butter begins to color. Then lower the heat a bit and continue swilling the butter until it is a medium amber color. Add the brown sugar and swirl the pan until the sugar has melted. Promptly remove the pan from the heat and add the pecans. Gently turn the pecans in the browned butter until evenly coated. Set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.

Then give the pecans another turn in the butter mixture, and pick out the pecans and spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Transfer to the preheated oven and toast the pecans for about 8 minutes. 

Remove the toasted pecans from the oven and set aside to cool. Once the pecans have cooled set 24 pecans aside to use later. Then chop the remaining pecans and set them aside to use for the cookie dough later.

For the cookies:

Place the unsalted butter in a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer whip the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Then add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Place the egg in a small bowl along with the vanilla extract and whisk until combined.

Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated.

Combine the flour, baking soda, corn starch, and salt in a bowl and mix with a spoon until combined.

With the mixer set on low speed add a third of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Ad the remaining flour mixture in two additions until combined. Scrape off the excess dough on the mixer blades and add to the dough.

Then using a silicone spatula fold the chopped pecans into the dough until evenly combined.

Take two tablespoons of the dough and roll it between the palms of your hands to form an even ball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Form the remaining dough into balls and place them on the baking sheet, allowing about 3 inches between each ball of dough, generally 9 to 12 cookies to a tray.

Gently flatten the balls of dough just slightly and top with a pecan placed in the center of each cookie.

Transfer the cookies to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the tray after 5 minutes to insure even baking. The cookies will be lightly browned and will be soft, but not to worry. They will firm up as they cool. Be mindful of your timing s over backing will dry the cookies out!

Promptly remove the cookies from the oven and set them aside for a few minutes to firm up. Then transfer them to a cooling rack and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Store the cooled cookies in an air tight container for several days or refrigerate for longer storage.

Collard Greens

Collard Greens

 

Collard Greens can stir up some animated conversations about an otherwise unassuming bunch of braised field greens. Lordy me! Seems you either love them or hate them, depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you happen to come from. That said, collard greens are real comfort food here in the American south. Their legacy reaches way back to native American diets before Europeans ever set foot here in the new world. Wild greens such as purslane, sorrel, poke, lamb’s quarters, dandelion, and chicory were all staples in the native American diet long before the loose leaf cultivars we call collard greens were planted in fields throughout the American south well before the civil war.

 

Collard Greens

Collard Greens

 

Traditionally collards are slow cooked with bacon fat and ham hocks, which are optional, along with some dried red chile flakes. The resulting braised deep green collards are swathed in a savory broth affectionately called “potlikker” here in the south.

Collard greens are in fact one of the most nutritious greens you could ever eat, They are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as being low in calories. So whatever your preconceptions may be about collard greens, you owe it to yourself to give them another try. Simple to prepare and ideal fare throughout the growing season. The aroma of braising collards as well as their rich earthy green flavor is sure to win you over.

I prefer omitting the animal fats and meats when I braise collards , but if you are traditionalist by all means include them.

 

Collard Greens aka …a mess of greens with potlikker (Basics)

Unlocking the deep flavors of collard greens is very straight forward. The secret couldn’t be simpler. By following the wisdom of generations of southern cooks, you want to braise these cut greens at at a very low simmer while being mindful of the texture of the greens as they braise.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds collard greens, center ribs removed
  • 3 tablespoons bacon fat (optional), or olive + more for finishing
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • 2 oz ham hock or bacon, chopped (optional) ,or substitute 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ¾ quarts stock or water
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • lemon wedges for serving

Needed: A large deep braising pan with lid.

Prepare the collard leaves before you begin cooking.

Using a sharp knife, cut out the center rib from the leaves lengthwise and discard them. Stack the leaves lengthwise and then roll them up lengthwise. Slice the rolled up leaves crosswise into ¾ inch slices. Then unfurl the slices and toss them together in a large bowl and set aside.

Place the braising pan on the stove top set at medium heat. When the pan is hot add the bacon fat or olive oil. When the fat is hot add the onions and saute for several minutes until the onions are softened and translucent. Then add the ham hocks or bacon if using, or the smoked paprika. Season with salt, and chile flakes, and stir to combine, and saute for a minute or so.

Add the stock or water to the pan, raise the heat, and cook until the broth is simmering.

Then add the sliced collards . Once the broth returns to a boil, reduce the heat so the broth is barely simmering. Partially cover the pan with the lid. Adjust the heat to maintain a very low simmer and braise until the collards are well cooked but still retaining a slight firmness. Cooking time will vary depending on the age and size of the collard leaves used, but somewhere between 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours.

Serving:

Serve the collards hot out of the pot along with some potlikker.

Taste and season with salt and pepper, and a spritz of olive oil and lemon juice.

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