At some point in the history of my family, someone told someone about the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. Apparently this ritual dates back to biblical times, when early editions of the bible told Jews to eat “good-luck symbols” (which included black eyed peas, leeks, and beets) on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Somehow, in my non-Jewish family, this charmingly pleasant concept got translated into something like, “If you don’t eat at least one black eyed pea on New Year’s day, start saying your prayers because your days are numbered.”
Needless to say, black eyed peas are critical. Usually, either my mom or my sister makes some kind of southern-style slow-cooked beans and ham thing, which they are kind enough to share with my husband, my kids, and me, but this year — due to plans and whatnot — we were on our own. You’d think a food evangelist would have this covered, right, and get the dry beans soaking the night before, etc.? Well, that didn’t happen, and on Saturday afternoon as we drove home from a day in the mountains, my husband and I looked at each other in panic. “What about the black eyed peas?” Crap.
I’m happy and relieved to report that we swung by the store and bought a can of the peas (Eden Organic brand, which come in a BPA-free can), and I made soup. I even made enough to share with the neighbors, so they’re good for the year, too.
The soup was really good, too. It was good enough, actually, that it doesn’t have to be New Year’s Day to eat it. It was very quick and easy to make, and obviously you can mess around with the ingredients if, say, you want white beans in stead of black eyed peas — go ahead and throw in whatever is lurking in your fridge that looks like it wants to be eaten. I was toying with the idea of adding a cup or so of frozen corn, but my spouse wasn’t feeling it, so I left it out. Worth trying though. With a salad and some bread, it’s a perfect January meal — relatively light and healthy but still warming, hearty, and even kid friendly.
Happy New Year Soup
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
About 6 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 can of black eyed peas, drained
Olive oil for sautéing
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and cut in half
1 strip of bacon, cut into small strips (uncured, i.e. nitrate free)
6 cups vegetable broth or stock (If you don’t have stock, you can use water but will probably need to add more salt and spices for flavor; extra bacon never hurts.)
White wine (like Chardonnay)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
2 cups cooked brown rice
Sautée the onions and garlic in about 1 tbs. of olive oil. Add the celery and green peppers and cook until slightly soft. Add about 1/2 cup of wine and cook off until it doesn’t smell boozy anymore. Add the bacon, the back eyed peas, and then the broth and bay leaf, simmer for about 10-15 mins. Add the shrimp and simmer a few more minutes to incorporate the flavor. Test the flavor and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice (about 1/2 cup per serving) with a little green habanero hot sauce (or not).