This recipe makes a flavorful salad or side dish. Adapt it with whatever you have on hand to suit your preferred tastes. Be sure to serve black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck!
2 cups of fresh black-eyed peas, rinsed and carefully picked over
2-3 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces (see Cooks Notes below)
1 cup of sweet onions, chopped
1-3 fresh jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped (see Cooks Notes below)
Several cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup chopped stewed tomatoes, drained (or 1 cup of fresh tomatoes, seeded)
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar (or red wine, if you like traditional flavors)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, cook the chopped bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is beginning to crisp. Remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel, and drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.
To the hot fat, add the onions and jalapenos. After they have begun to soften, add the garlic, and then stir the vegetables to assure that the fat is evenly distributed.
After 1-2 minutes (don’t let the garlic start to brown), add the peas and enough water to just cover the peas and vegetables. Gently simmer for 20-30 minutes, covered, until the peas are tender. (Be careful not to overcook or the water will evaporate and leave you with a burned mess.)
Add the chopped tomatoes to the cooked peas, and then stir in the vinegar and Worcestershire. Simmer a few minutes more, uncovered until all liquids are absorbed.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm as a side dish or cold as a salad. May be made the day before to allow flavors to blend.
There are a million ways to prepare a good mess of black-eyed peas. Begin by choosing what form of pea you will use: dried, fresh, canned, or frozen. Then decide if your peas will end up as the main course, a side vegetable, or an appetizer. It is all up to you! I start with fresh peas whenever possible, and let my imagination determine how the peas should be prepared.
If you don’t have fresh jalapenos available, it is fine to substitute canned jalapenos other fresh peppers. If you don’t have any peppers (fresh or hot), try adding some decent hot sauce such as Tabasco.
Black-eyed peas are traditionally cooked with bacon. If you don't have bacon, but have saved some bacon fat from previous cooking adventures, use that fat as a reasonable substitution. It will add a wonderful smoky flavor to the peas. You can also substitute chopped ham or even a bit of smoked sausage. It is up to you!