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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

black-eyed pea hummus


dispatch from the frozen north

I made black-eyed pea hummus in honor of New Year’s Day, since eating black-eyed peas is supposed to ensure good fortune in the coming year. (The other thing you’re supposed to eat is collard greens—but you don’t have to eat them in the same meal! Check out my non-traditional Indian collard green recipe if you want.)

Just look at the sunshine beaming onto this plate! For a mid-winter day in Anchorage, these bright beams could portend good things to come in the new year… But it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, because when it’s clear, it’s usually cold.  It’s been 15 degrees below zero for the past two weeks here near the coast, but in the interior, it’s been much colder. Just 45 miles north, in Palmer, it’s been 30 degrees below zero, and when Arthur delivers our CSA vegetable boxes, he has to stack them on the passenger seats to the ceiling of his big Suburban, since the back of his box truck is too cold!

It’s hard to dress warmly enough to cross-country ski or run, but I’ve been dressing in three or four very thick layers to get out there. If it wasn’t so beautiful, with tiers of spruce boughs laden with thick frostings of fluffy snow, the sun reflecting off the sparkles in the air, I wouldn’t mind running inside on a treadmill. As it is, it’s too pretty to miss! That is, when I can see it! After half an hour or so, my eyelashes build up enough ice to stick together when I blink…  or they freeze to my icicle of a neck muff, hoisted up just under my eyes (I guess I should call it a face muff). **ouch!**

I pretend that the rays of sun hitting my one square inch of exposed flesh are providing me with adequate Vitamin D. But whether it hits my skin or not, there’s a psychological benefit of taking the sun. It definitely perks me up, and I feel triumphant afterwards: I’ve managed to overcome the elements! Then, of course, I hop immediately into a hot shower. So much for my tough pioneering spirit.

Anyway, Happy New Year, and stay warm out there!

black-eyed pea hummus

This is a fun recipe based on one in Crescent Dragonwagon’s Passionate Vegetarian. She lives in the South, and calls her spread “Hillbilly Hummus,” since it contains black-eyed peas and peanut butter. I just love the combination of the slightly sweet black-eyes with the peanut butter. (Isn’t that clever—using peanut butter instead of tahini?) It’s quicker than regular hummus, because the black-eyes only take 30 or 40 minutes to cook. I make a really big batch when I do this, because it freezes so well. Just pack the hummus in small containers, label them and pull them out whenever you need a quick appetizer or snack. If you’re making this in mid-winter in Alaska, you can just put them out on your back deck to freeze. Who needs a chest freezer, anyway?

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
2 bay leaves
8 cloves garlic (4 for cooking the beans, 4 for the hummus)
¼ cup natural peanut butter, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon of cayenne, or to taste
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt, plus more to taste

1. Drain and rinse the soaked peas. Cover the black-eyed peas with 2 inches of water in a large pot. Mince or press 4 of the whole garlic cloves and add them and the bay leaves to the pot, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer until the beans are completely tender (you can squish them between your tongue and roof of your mouth). This will probably take about 30 or 40 minutes, but keep testing. Let them cool a bit in their liquid. Don’t drain the beans yet—you’ll need some of the liquid to make the hummus.
2. This is probably the most important step of the whole recipe:  REMOVE THE BAY LEAVES from the peas. (It’s very important to find the bay leaves and get rid of them at this stage. Bay leaves do not puree well—they just turn into hundreds of tiny sharp shards.)
3. In a food processor, mince the remaining 4 cloves of garlic. Add the peanut butter, thyme, vinegar, cayenne and salt, and puree it until well-mixed. If your lemon juice or vinegar is cold, it’ll congeal the peanut butter into little curds—that’s totally fine. Scooping the peas out of the pot with a strainer or slotted spoon, add some of the beans to the food processor. (You might have to do this in batches, depending on the size if your food processor.) If you need to add bean-cooking liquid to make a smooth puree, do so.
4. Taste the puree and add more salt, more peanut butter, more cayenne, vinegar or lemon juice… whatever you think best! Scoop it up with celery sticks, carrots, or spread on crackers or toast! It tastes even better the next day.


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