FOR ages, black-eyed peas have been symbolic of good luck for a new year and I think it's probably a state law that they be consumed on or around the first of January.
They are a legume of legend and high up on the healthy scale, full of calcium (who would have thought since they aren't in the dairy case?) and vitamin A.
You can get busy making hoppin' John (a Southern stew made from black-eyed peas, bacon or ham, rice and seasonings - first cousin to jambalaya) or Texas caviar - the "salad" of black-eyed peas, diced onion, celery, garlic, tomatoes and a light vinaigrette dressing.
However, "hoppin'" sounds too animated a way to usher in 2009 - reminds me of the Easter bunny. And that "caviar" takes a lot of time to chop and dice. You may take my less ambitious route to potential success and fortune.
For a quick lunch or dinner of Texas caviar, I mix one can of drained black-eyed peas with the desired amount of refrigerated fresh salsa. Two ingredients and done.
I recommend Maggie's salsa, a West Virginia-grown product, because the fresh chopped veggies are perfect for a salad and Maggie does all the work. The salsa is sold in Kroger, Purple Onion in Capitol Market and Black Angus meats in St. Albans. If you don't live near those, check your area stores for possible availability.
Sometimes I switch off and use chickpeas instead of black-eyed peas. Draining the salsa before adding to the peas is optional, as is the stirring into the peas and salsa a little light mayonnaise to hold everything together.
Looking toward your possible Kwanzaa feasts, along with the above directions for a quick black-eyed pea salad, I tried to find (again, for good luck) a cooked cabbage recipe you could live with. Maybe my Creole cabbage is it. We take the easy road by not chopping any heads of cabbage, but rather reaching for the packaged coleslaw mix on the produce shelf.
Optional on the side is grilled or pan-sautéed smoked turkey sausage. Or add the sausage (sliced) to the cabbage when you add the tomatoes to make a complete all-in-one dish.
Nothing completes it, though, like cornbread, hot from the oven. Mixing up today's light and fluffy corn muffins is a quick way to give everyone their own little individual portion.
You may add 1/4 cup each of chopped green onion and chopped red bell pepper to the batter for variation, making a more Southwestern corn muffin.
A sprinkling of crushed hot pepper flakes or exchanging shredded pepper jack cheese for the cheddar will heat them up, if seeking a spicy detour.
All the best in 2009. Happy New Year!
1 T olive oil or cooking spray
1 medium onion, halved, sliced
One-third each yellow, orange and red bell pepper or one whole pepper any color
1 16-oz. bag coleslaw mix (preferably with carrot)
1 14-oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 10-oz. can RoTel tomatoes and green chilies