Traditionally, black eyed peas and rice dishes are eaten in the southern USA on New Year’s Day for good luck. The idea is to eat a humble meal on the first day so that you may prosper the rest of the year. I have always liked the sentiment of the idea and continue the tradition even though we live north of the Mason-Dixon line.
My mother, born and raised in New Orleans, had her own take on this dish and made it using black beans (turtle beans). Black beans were a staple of her childhood and therefore, mine as well. They are now readily available dried or canned. Fifty years and more ago, that was not the case. My mom had to travel great distances (more than 100 miles) to purchase them dried and brought home 50 pounds or more at a time. I clearly remember the old bank sacks she used to transport them.
Black beans and rice have taken good care of my hunger for a large portion of my life. Beyond my childhood, it was a staple of existence for me during my college and internship days. I never felt like I was eating like poor folk and it still doesn’t. The fact is that this tastes great! I add sauteed vegetables to the top. Just simple stuff: onions, carrots, peas, peppers and tomatoes with spices, it would make the meal seem like a feast. In reality, this was a great way to use up small portions of veg that was in the crisper bin so that it didn’t go to waste. My mom would be proud of that.
This year it looks like I am going to tempt the fates. I just checked my pantry and I don’t have enough brown rice to make my dish! So….I just happen to have some red rice…yes I know it is usually a bit pricey, but I have an out. I bought it on the discount rack for about a quarter the regular price (I know!), even less than what I pay for brown rice. Since I got it cheap I think I’ll be OK using it. It takes longer to cook, but that’s the price I pay for not checking my pantry when we make the weekly grocery list. Sadly I can’t blame my husband for this one…(sigh)
I feel pretty fortunate in my life, so maybe the traditional meal actually works! If you don’t have a New Year’s tradition (outside all the resolution stuff), I recommend starting one this year. It is a great way to bind your family together and your children will (hopefully) carry them on. Hey, every tradition has to start sometime….right?
1 1/2 cups brown rice (you can use pilaf or whatever grain you like)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2-15oz cans of unseasoned black beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 full size carrots, sliced (peeled if you like)
1/2 cup of sweet peppers, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 Tbs (or more) of sun-dried tomatoes or some tomato paste works too
1/2 Tbs ground cumin
1/2 Tbs ground coriander
1 Tbs coriander chutney (or 1/3 cup chopped cilantro)
1/2 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs lime juice
Shredded cheese-cheddar, jack, colby, even feta is pretty good!
Combine water, chicken stock and rice in a small sauce pan. Bring ingredients to boil, then simmer, covered, until liquid is almost absorbed. Add the drained black beans and continue cooking until remaining liquid is gone. Set aside.
While the rice is cooking….
In a medium skillet (cast iron is great for this), saute the vegetables (except peas) in a little olive oil until softened and the onions have some color. Add the spices and chutney and cook a few more minutes. Add peas, stir and turn heat to lowest setting for 2-3 minutes so peas can thaw. Turn off heat and squeeze lime over the veg mixture. Stir again.
To assemble: Spoon bean/rice mixture into individual bows. Top with vegetables. Add cheese and even a bit of plain yogurt if you like. We like ours with a bit of hot sauce (green Tabasco-I’m in heaven!) Enjoy!