When I think of black-eyed peas and greens, I think of the South. Some of the states that come to mind: my home state of Texas, but also Louisiana, Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia. I also think of New Year’s Day–when it’s a tradition to eat black-eyed peas and cabbage (or other greens), which symbolize good luck and money.
Problem is, the meal was often bland. Not exactly something I looked forward to as the first lunch or dinner of a new year. The meal certainly didn’t make me feel lucky or rich, I must say. On second thought, maybe the good luck and money business is so much smoke and mirrors? Perhaps the bland foods are meant to calm, clean, and nourish a hungover body? Ha!
So when I was introduced to black-eyed peas and greens Arabic style, aka Salk be Lubia, it was a pleasant surprise. The true flavors and nuance of the peas and the greens shine through without the worry of pork’s grease and domineering flavor weighing the dish down. A kick of warming dried pepper and some rich spices elevate the flavors even more.
Though many cooks choose to boil the peas and greens together, I seperate them and only use boiling as the cooking technique for the peas. I think cooking the greens in more of a sautee style brings their natural sweetness to the front, and minimizes any bitterness.
Plus, though it’s hard for me to fathom, not everyone likes beans or peas. Other people dislike greens. I know, unbelievable, right 😉 ? By having two distinct, but related dishes, people can enjoy what they like.
Another cool thing about cooking the greens and the peas separately is that you can cook one and have it ready, or at least close to ready, depending on the timing of your meal. (I’d probably get the peas going first). Then as the one dish is cooking away or already done, get the other one going. As mealtime approaches, just heat up the dish that’s finished, and serve both dishes together. This is often how I cook in real life.
Arabic Style Greens and Black-eyed Peas (Salk be Lubia)
1 cup of dried black-eyed peas
1 pound of collard greens
1 medium onion
1-2 small tomatoes
1 large clove of garlic (or two small)
2 dried chiles of your choice (I like serranos. Adobos give a more smokey flavor, which is nice too.)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 Bay Leaf
2 teaspoons cooking oil of choice
2 tablespoons Middle Eastern Spice blend (or you can put together your own, with pinches of powdered spices. Mine contains: cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, coriander, cardamom, and cumin)
Salt and pepper to taste
Honey, agave nectar, or mild maple syrup (optional)
1. Prep ingredients. Soak collard greens in a deep, clean bowl full of water, or in a clean sink full of water. As greens soak, grate onion and garlic and set aside. Finely chop tomatoes, and break chiles into small pieces. Discard seeds of peppers if you prefer your food on the milder side. Set aside. Remove greens from water and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. (Some water left on them is actually just find, and helps the cooking process. So don’t drive yourself crazy trying to get every drop of water off of the greens). Cut collard greens into medium ribbons using the chiffonade technique.
2. Place peas, half of the spices, half of the grated onion, garlic, tomatoes, salt, pepper, Bay leaf, and both chiles in slow cooker with a cup of water (Enough water so that they can “swim” around a bit. Cook for at least two hours. (Consult your slow cooker manual for instructions on how long to cook peas). If not using slow cooker, bring peas, other ingredients, and water to a boil on the stovetop. Drop the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer. Begin checking for doneness at 25 minutes. Cook longer as needed to make sure they’re tender.
3. As peas cook, warm oil over medium heat in a non-reactive Dutch oven or large skillet. Lower heat to low. Place the other half of the onion into the oil, and gently stir for about a minute. Add in the rest of the garlic, and the spices. Heat for about 30 seconds more, until the aroma of the spices blooms.
4. Add in the greens and stir to coat with oil, spices, and other veggies. Increase heat to medium for about five minutes, then add no more than a cup of water, and cook on low until desired doneness is reached. Personally, I like my greens cooked on the tender-crisp side, so I’m usually happy with their texture after a total of 20 minutes of cooking, including the 5 minute-sautee. Some people do like the greens much softer. If you’re one of those people, cook for 45 minutes to an hour on low heat, adding water periodically to make sure greens don’t scorch.
5. Check seasonsing of beans and greens and adjust as needed. If greens taste to bitter, mix in a bit of honey, mild maple syrup, or agave nectar to balance out any bitter undertones. But by sauteeing, not boiling, the greens, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised as how their natural sweetness comes out.
6. Serve and enjoy!