Aunt Suzy says . . . .

I did not grow up eating black-eyed peas, but am glad to have learned about them from friends who grew up in the South!  Black-eyed peas are packed with nutrients – high in potassium, iron, protein and fiber – and as an added bonus they have a delicious taste and meaty texture.  “Peas” is a misnomer since they are actually legumes related to the mung bean.   They are a Southern staple, but you don’t need to be from the South to enjoy them.  Many Southern-style recipes use smoked ham-hocks, a ham bone or  piece of ham to add flavor.  This one gets its smokiness from Andouille sausage.

I find it interesting that these legumes are thought to have originated in Asia (although they likely came to the U.S. from Africa).  In our local Vietnamese restaurants they are offered in sweet drinks and desserts – quite a departure from the savory dishes we’re used to!

Cook’s notes: The specified amounts in this recipe make a lot – a little under 3 quarts of finished product.  I make this large amount because they freeze really well, and I always feel that if I’m going to go to the effort, I might as well make a bunch.  You can cut these quantities in half to serve 6-8 people as a side dish, 4-6 people as a main dish served with rice.  This is great with dried peas, but if you can find fresh, even better.  I used chicken Andouille sausage, which is readily available at co-ops in the Twin Cities from Larry Schultz Organic Farm and at Trader Joe’s elsewhere.

4 cups dried black-eyed peas (unless you are lucky enough to have fresh, then use 7-8 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, diced

2 celery stalks, sliced

2-4 cloves garlic (depending on size and your taste)

2 andouille sausages, split and sliced into half-moons

6-7 cups chicken stock or water (stock recommended but not essential)

3-4 red chile peppers or 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional – the sausage has a little heat already)

3-4 sprigs thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

3-4 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

If using dried black-eyed peas, pick out the ones that don’t look so good and rinse.  Place in a large pot and add water to cover the peas by 3 inches.  Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.  Let sit for 15 minutes then drain and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a large dutch oven or soup pot with the olive oil.  Bring heat to medium-high.  Add the onions and celery and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the sausage and saute another 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute another  minute or two until fragrant.  Add half the liquid and then the peas.  Add more liquid until the peas are just covered.  Add the chile peppers, thyme and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer covered for about 60 minutes if using dried peas. Start checking doneness after 30 minutes to prevent overcooking.  If you want less liquid when done, cook the last 15 minutes with the lid off.  For fresh peas, the cooking time will be 30-45 minutes.

Before serving, remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and chile peppers. Serve in bowls as a side or over rice as a main dish.  Always good with cornbread!