Louvi with Tiganissi: Greek Style Black-Eyed Peas with Collards
I don’t know about you, but as the holiday season winds down, I usually find myself scrambling to reflect on the past year, prepare for the New Year and figure out my New Years Eve plans. The past few years have been scattered on this front. When we first met, Fred and I decided to ignore the zero degree chill accompanying the epic blizzard swirling around us to take a stroll through the Boston Common to view the ice sculptures and fireworks (which were obviously cancelled due to the, ahem, blizzard). Luckily we made it home without losing any appendages to frostbite, but were so exhausted from our adventure that we feel asleep a few minutes before midnight, champagne flutes in hand. Since that first New Years, our plans have ranged from romantic dinners at home to wild parties with raucously spirited friends. No matter what type of celebration, though, there’s usually some need for a little food.
One thing I love about holidays is the food traditions that accompany them. Holidays give me an excuse to be a bit of a food anthropologist – digging around for recipes that reflect different culture’s attitudes and customs around certain foods. And New Years is no exception. No matter what date it’s celebrated on, every culture has its lucky New Years foods. Spaniards, for example, traditionally attempt to eat 12 grapes between the first stroke of midnight and the last. I love this tradition because the grapes themselves tell the eater’s fortune for the coming year. Each grape represents a month, and if you get a particularly sweet one, say your eighth one, the corresponding month, in this example August, will be especially wonderful.
Today’s recipe contains two lucky New Years foods – black-eyed peas and collards. Many countries eat heaping mounds of greens around the New Years for good fortune, quite literally, since they look like paper money. In the Southern United States the green of choice for this purpose is collards. It’s also quite common in the South to eat black-eyed peas to cultivate fortune (again, literally) in the New Year. I’ve found several reasoning for this particular tradition. Some claim the custom can be traced back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack but luckily found a store of old black-eyed peas to tide them over until further supplies could be garnered. Others say that the way the legumes expand in water is meant to be a harbinger of other things expanding, like the amount of money in your savings, or that the beans themselves resemble coins. Whatever the reasons for their luck, collards and black-eyed peas are a brilliantly healthy pairing that come together marvelously in this traditional Greek dish.
Louvi with Tiganissi: Greek Black-Eyed Peas with Collards (recipe conglomerated and adapted from Madhur Jaffrey and the NY Times eating well column)
(serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side)
Tiganissi, which means ‘to fry’ in Greek, is technically an addition to dress up this meal, but I think the Louvi needs the extra flavor so I always include it when making this recipe.
This dish can be served on its own as a side, over a bed of brown rice for a main dish, or can be heaped onto crusty toasted sourdough bread or tortilla chips for a casual lunch. We recommend making this at least a day ahead to give the flavors time to meld and deepen.
1 lb collard greens, washed, stems removed and green parts cut in 1/4″ ribbons
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
3 1/4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tbs tomato paste
1-2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
3 tbs olive oil
2 dried red hot chile peppers
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
To rehydrate your beans, you may either soak overnight or use the quick soak method. To quick-soak your beans, place them in a medium pot and cover with several inches of water. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for a minute or two before removing the pot from the heat and covering. Allow to remain covered for at least one hour prior to using your beans.
Once your beans are rehydrated, rinse and drain them, picking out any skins that may have separated from their beans during the process. Place them back into a medium to large pot and cover with your stock or water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover and lower to a gentle simmer. Allow the beans to cook for 40 minutes, then add your salt and collards, working in batches until they all fit in the pot. Stir the mixture until all your greens have wilted, then increase the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat back to low, cover and allow to simmer an additional 30 minutes. Finally, stir in your tomato paste, 1 tbs of lemon juice, and a healthy grinding of fresh pepper.
Once your collards and beans are finished cooking, start on the tiganissi. Heat the smallest skillet you have over medium high heat and add your olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chile peppers and allow them to cook for a minute before adding your onion and garlic. Allow to fry a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the edges of your onion and garlic begin to brown. Pour the tiganissi over your collards and beans immediately and stir to combine. At this time, add additional lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with red chile peppers (these are very hot and should be used only as decorative garnish unless you really like hot things). For additional serving suggestions, see notes above.