Growing black-eyed peas
When I started gardening this year, black-eyed peas were the first vegetable I’d ever sown right into the ground, and boy were they mighty growers. I bought some from the grocery store, soaked them, then sowed them 1/4 inch deep. In two days each seed was a little plant. I did nothing to the soil. I hardly watered them, although the Florida rains did their part. And yet they thrived. The little shoots grew so fast, I wondered if I could see them growing in real time.
The cultural meanings of black-eyed peas
Call me a plant nerd, but words can’t describe the joy of watching something grow up overnight. I highly recommend it as an antidote for modern life. And I’m not the only one who sees black-eyed peas as auspicious. In Southern and African American communities, they’re served for luck on New Year’s and in the Senegambia region, they’re similarly symbolic. The connection here is not by chance. Enslaved peoples who brought over black-eyed peas from West Africa cultivated it here in the United States. With ingenuity, these cooks also created the recipes that we recreate today. Thanks to them, and to the African American cooks who continue these recipes, we enjoy this food in our own kitchens and gardens. Check out food historian Michael Twitty’s post for more cultural background on the plant and its peas. Better yet, check out his book, The Cooking Gene.
I decided to make this recipe as a hybrid of a few of my favorites. On the one hand, there’s Southern black-eyed peas, which uses ham hock for flavor. Then there’s Ghanaian Red Red which cooks the beans in a rich tomato sauce. And then there are the many creative vegan re-makes.
Inspired by all the above recipes, I created a vegan version. Like a ham hock might pepper a bean dish with bits of flavor, so might fried garlic and onions punctuate a bite. I’m also partial to the tangy flavor of Red Red, so I thought I’d cook the beans in a tomato sofrito. And in my world, beans are never complete without a little bit (a lot) of heat. 🙂
I hope you like this recipe, but most of all, I hope you save a few beans from your bag, throw them in the earth, and see what happens.
Live long and prosper, like a black-eyed pea plant.Print
A tasty stew topped with crispy fried onions. Eat with rice or a starch of your choosing.
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- coconut oil, for frying
- 1/2–1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups black-eyed peas
- 5 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the Fried Garlic and Onions
- Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the pan gets hot, add a 1/4-inch layer of oil. For me, that was about 1/4 cup.
- Test that the pan is hot enough by throwing in a tiny slice of garlic. When the slice is covered in vigorous bubbles, you’ll know it’s ready. While the pan is heating, toss the onion slices with cornstarch until well coated.
- Add the garlic to the pan. About a minute in, or when the bottoms start to turn golden, flip your garlic slices over. Stay by the pan, so that you can remove the slices onto a towel or paper towel, one by one, as they start to turn gold. Burned garlic would NOT be ideal here!
- Once all the garlic is removed, keep the original oil and add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan. When it’s fully heated, add the onion slices. As the onions cook, use tongs or two forks to keep the pieces from sticking together.
- (P.S. Turn your Instant Pot to Sauté now to prepare the black-eyed peas.)
- Cook onions until they’re crispy and on the brown side of golden brown. Then, remove and pat dry onto a towel.
For the Black-Eyed Peas
- Directly after frying, pour the leftover oil into the Instant Pot and add the chili flakes and bell peppers. When the bell peppers start to soften, stir in the tomatoes, smoked paprika, and garlic powder.
- When the tomatoes are cooked, you may notice a difference in smell (the raw smell goes away) or oil separating from the mixture. That means it’s ready for the next step! Add the black-eyed peas, 5 1/2 cups of water, and teaspoon salt. Put the pressure cooker on the Chili/Bean setting, close the lid, and turn the release valve to Sealed.
- When the pressure cooker is done, release the heat using the release valve and put the Instant Pot back on Sauté. Add the fried garlic to the beans. Using an immersion blender, potato masher, or the back of a wooden spoon, blend some of the beans to create a thicker soup.
- Cook for 10 more minutes. Serve over rice and top with fried onions!
A note on portions: One medium onion will not match the proportion of the bean recipe! I would make a new fried onion every day I ate this recipe. So if it will be served all on one day, fry 3-4 medium onions, one at a time, and simply add more oil between each batch.
Keywords: black-eyed peas, stew, dinner, fried onions, fried garlic, meals