Spicy black eyed peas with kale: cooking your way to a happy and prosperous new year!

When I was a fourth-grader in a little town our school teacher once told us that whoever studies very hard on the new year's day gets excellent grades and wins all the academic prizes in the next year. You know how it goes, right? at that age a word from your favorite school-teacher is like a word of a God! We all took her very seriously and made it a point to study hard on the new year's day. It was sort of like a tradition that we followed in our class; the point of which was that the direction you give to the first day of the year, thats the direction your rest of the year takes :) Now I look back and laugh at the innocence with which we studied on 1st of Jan hoping that good marks and prizes will follow, but all along I think somewhere there was a hidden innocent satisfaction of trying to shape up the new year to be :) Such do-no-harm traditions are my favorites!

I learnt of a similar new year's day tradition recently which is observed in the southern United States and best of all this is a food tradition! In southern US it is traditional to eat a meal of black eyed peas alongwith some greens (usually sautéed collard greens) with cornbread on the first day of the year. The symbolism behind this is really cute! The black eyed peas swell during the process of cooking (from dried to cooked). The swelling of the peas indicates prosperity in the coming year. The greens indicate 'greens'=money for the new year! and the spiciness of the food is symbolic of the the spice in your life for the year ahead! More than the symbolism though I just love to follow this food tradition because I simply just love black eyed peas and would not pass up a single opportunity to cook a big batch of these delicious legume!

Being a lazy and greedy person that I am though I decided to cook all the prosperity, wealth and spiciness in one single pot instead of making multiple dishes :) hey, one pot meals rule, right? Anyway, so here is to prosperity, wealth, spiciness and happiness to all of you in the coming new year! Happy New Year!!

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Recipe Source: Something I put together with the ingredients at hand, though I doubt the method is unique.

1C dried black eyed peas
4C water
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 zucchini
4 large leaves of kale (can substitute with spinach)
1can diced fire roasted tomatoes (can substitute with fresh or regular canned tomatoes but fire roasted tomatoes bring out this smoky taste that I really like)
olive oil

1tsp hot chili paper flakes
2tsp cumin powder
1tsp paprika (smoked paprika preferred) -- for color; can substitute with red chili powder.
dash of hot sauce
pinch of oregano (thyme has worked well for me too)
salt, black pepper
juice of 1lemon (or lime)

  1. Rinse and pressure cook black eyed peas with 4C water. No soaking is necessary when you are pressure cooking the beans. With my pressure cooker I pressure cooked them for 3 whistles (alternative method in note1). A little underdone black eyed peas are okay as they will cook a bit more with the rest of the spices later.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot on medium-low heat. Add chopped onions and cook for a few minutes.
  3. When onions are tender add finely chopped ginger and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes until aromatic.
  4. Next add chopped zucchini.
  5. Remove the stems from the kale leaves and tear the leaves up using your hand into small pieces. (I find that kale is much easier to tear using hands than chopping with a knife). Add kale to the pot and cook for just a few more minutes until the greens are wilted.
  6. Add canned tomatoes, paprika and chili flakes and cook for 10minutes or so until the rawness of the tomatoes is gone.
  7. Transfer cooked black eyed peas to the soup pot next. Add cumin, oregano, salt and hot sauce. Cook for 10more minutes on low heat uncovered.
  8. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and ground black pepper. Adjust the seasonings per taste. Serve hot with hot bread of rice!

1) Many people prefer the taste of stove-top cooked black eyed peas over pressure-cooked ones. I have tried both and honestly don't find much of a difference in flavor. Combine that with the ease of pressure cooking and a lazy person like me always favors pressure cooking method! If you want to try stove top method then just soak the beans overnight with enough water. Then cook them on stove-top for an hour or so with enough water until they are tender.
2) This recipe is a very forgiving one so feel free to substitute and experiment to your liking! Spiciness, smokiness are all relative, so please also adjust the seasonings as they suite you the best.

A hot bowl of this stew goes straight to MLLA18 hosted by Srivalli and started by Susan.

Here is wishing you and your near and dear ones a very happy and prosperous new year! I'll see you next year now, till then leaving you with a picture of my favorite flower: a purple orchid! We saw a big batch of these at our farmer's market a while ago. This is a picture my husband took to 'symbolically' gift me the flower (so much for the symbolism :-))