Pantry Raid: Black-Eyed Peas

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There is a 1-pound bag of black-eye peas that has been in my cupboard for an embarrassingly long period of time. Luckily, dried beans have a lengthy shelf life, so they don’t go bad, but it’s high time I used them, if only to make room for the second 1-pound bag of black-eyed peas I bought since I’d forgotten they were there.

There are two things I use black-eye peas for: Hoppin’ John at New Year’s and a throw-together summer salad of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and black-eyed peas. This time around, I thought I’d expand my repertoire and make Persian Spinach and Black-Eyed Peas for a summer supper. The ingredients were easy to assemble [photo], the only thing was, the recipe called for canned black-eyed peas. Since 1 can of beans is equal to 1 1/2 cups cooked beans, I went ahead and cooked 1 cup of dried black-eyed peas to have enough for a half-portion of the recipe. (There’s just me eating; 6 servings would have been a little much.) This let me start seasoning them right away by adding a bay leaf and a garlic clove to the cooking water.

One hour later… Yup. Those beans were old. Relatively fresh dried black-eyed peas would have cooked in 30 to 40 minutes, but since these dried beans were really dry, it took them much longer to soften up to an edible consistency.

After that, putting the recipe together was a piece of cake. Halving the recipe turned out to be a good thing; the full-size version would never have fit in my 10-inch skillet. (I’d use a wok if I were making the full recipe.)

Final verdict: I’m in love with the cinnamon and nutmeg seasoning which gives the recipe an exotic flavor. (Typical food editor train of thought: How can I borrow that flavor combination for a future recipe?) But I was still craving more tang than the lemon juice in the recipe. The solution? Some chopped summer tomatoes and a sprinkling of feta cheese. I ate the first bowl as-is but the next meal, I’ll serve it over couscous or rice with a side of Cucumber, Walnut and Yogurt Salad.

Do you have wholesome ingredients sitting pretty on your pantry shelves? Pantry Raid is a new VT blog series that’ll help you clean out your pantry, clean up your diet, and save cash. Stay tuned for more inspirational uses of kitchen staples.