Update: For a simplified version of this recipe, using canned products, go here.
A belated Happy New Year to everyone. Around these parts, black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten on New Year's Day for good luck. Given how the last half of 2008 went, I think 2009 will need all the help it can get. While one can simply prepare black-eyed peas (which are also called cowpeas, but are actually beans) with just a few flavorings, I like to mix it with other ingredients into a bean salsa called Texas Caviar. As far as I know, there is no such thing as a canonical Texas Caviar, and a search on the Internet shows that recipes are certainly all over the map. My version is based on the recipe from p. 280 of American Home Cooking by Bill and Cheryl Jamison, but in reality I'm still tweaking it. The recipe below, then, is not what I had just made for this past New Year's, but what I'm planning for the next time around. (It's pretty close, though—the base ingredients are in good shape, I just need to get the after-cooking yields straightened out, as you'll see.)
INGREDIENTSBeans and Corn
|6 oz.||Black beans (dried, about 3/4 cup), plus|
|3 cups water and 1 tsp table salt|
|8 oz.||Black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen, plus|
|4 cups water and 1 tsp table salt|
|3/4 cup||Yellow corn kernels|
|1 small||Red bell pepper (about 2/3 cup diced)|
|3 stalks||Celery (about 2/3 cup diced)|
|1 small||Onion (about 1/2 cup diced)|
|1 medium||Jalapeno chile, fresh or pickled|
Dressing and Seasoning
|1/4 tsp||Ground cumin, or|
|1/4 heaping tsp whole cumin seeds (preferred)|
|2 medium||Garlic cloves|
|1 tsp||Coarsely ground black pepper, or more to taste|
|1/2 tsp||Table salt, or more to taste|
|1/4 cup||Apple cider vinegar|
|1/2 cup||Neutral-tasting vegetable oil|
COOK THE BEANS AND CORNFor beans, there are evidently some pretty strongly-held opinions on soaking methods (long soak, quick soak, or no soak) and when to add salt during cooking. From all I've read, none of it really matters, as soaking vs. not-soaking merely changes the cooking time, and, contrary to much handed-down advice, adding salt early doesn't toughen the beans. But if you disagree with this and have another way that you have (and can be) relied upon, then hey, do whatever works for you; I'm not going to argue.
- Spread the beans out on a flat surface and pick out any pebbles, loose skins, and broken bits and discard.
- Place the beans in a cooking pot and fill with water. Pick out any floaters and discard.
- If you are able to plan ahead, soak the beans overnight (8 to 12 hours) before cooking. If not, it's no problem to cook the beans right away, it'll just take more time.
- If you've let the beans soak, drain the soaking water.
- Fill the pot with 3 cups water and place on a stove.
- Bring the water to boil over High heat, then reduce heat to between Low and Med-Low so that the water is simmering. Skim off the foam, add 1 tsp salt, then place a lid on the pot and let simmer until the texture is to your liking. Check on the beans starting at about 30 minutes. Soaked beans that are fresh will cook the quickest, while old and/or unsoaked beans will take longer.
- Place the beans in a cooking pot (approx. 3 qt. capacity) and fill with water. Pick out the floaters, loose skins, and broken bits and discard. Drain water and rinse/drain a few more times until the water is clear.
- Now fill the pot with 4 cups of water and place on a stove.
- Bring the water to boil over High heat, then reduce heat to between Low and Med-Low so that the water is simmering. Skim off the foam, add 1 tsp salt, then place a lid on the pot and let simmer for until bean texture is to your liking. As with the black beans, start checking at about 30 minutes.
- You can use kernels cut off a cob or frozen kernels. Here in the middle of winter, I just zapped some corn straight from the freezer into the microwave on high power for about 2 minutes.
- Place the cooked corn into a mixing bowl (6 qts is a good size) to combine with other ingredients later.
PREPARE THE VEGETABLESRed bell pepper
- Remove and discard the stem, core, and seeds. Then trim away the white portions of the ribs.
- Cut the pepper into 1/4" square pieces (technically, a small dice).
- Place the pepper dices into the mixing bowl with the corn.
- Either wash the stalks under running water or swish them in a bowl of water to make sure that all the dirt and grit have been removed.
- Remove the leaves if there are any. Cut off approx. the bottom 1" of each stalk. Either discard these trimmings or save them for making stock another time.
- Cut each stalk into 1/4" squares.
- Place the celery dices into the mixing bowl with the corn and bell pepper.
- Cut off the very top and bottom portions of the onion. Remove the papery skin. Discard trimmings or save for stock.
- Chop the onion into 1/4" squares.
- Place the onion dices into the mixing bowl with the corn, bell pepper, and celery.
- I recommend handling hot chiles (such as jalapenos) with gloves. Disposable or surgical gloves are nice for this purpose. Otherwise, at least be very careful not to touch sensitive parts of your body, such as your eyes or any cut skin, if you've handled hot chiles with bare hands.
- Remove and discard the stem. You may keep or discard the core and seeds depending on your desired level or heat. Chiles with removed core and seeds will be less hot.
- Cut the jalapeno into 1/8" squares. For you fancy-schmancy types, this is a brunoise.
- Place the jalapeno pieces into the mixing bowl with the previous ingredients. Stir to mix.
PREPARE THE DRESSINGIdeally, you'd like to have a good oil/acid emulsion, and the best emulsions are achieved by running a blender with vinegar in its pitcher while slowly drizzling oil into it. However, this is potentially a messy operation (I'll get to that in a bit). The next-best method as far as emulsion quality goes is to keep whisking the vinegar by hand while drizzling oil into it. But you need three arms to whisk, drizzle, and hold the bowl! Well, you can put a wet towel on the counter and set the bowl on that to keep it stationary. But if you're just not up to that, simply putting the oil, vinegar, and seasonings together and whisking them all at once works, too; the emulsion won't hold, but the taste really doesn't suffer much.
I should also mention here that classic oil:acid ratio is 3:1 for vinaigrettes, but I think this recipe has enough sweet ingredients in it (corn, bell pepper, and celery) that a stronger acidic bite in the dressing serves to balance out the flavors better.
- If using ground cumin, place it into a mixing vessel—either a small mixing bowl or a blender's pitcher. Otherwise, put the whole seeds into a small skillet and place it on the stove. Toast the seeds over medium heat until fragrant. Stir the seeds or shake the pan to prevent burning. After toasting, grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or coffee mill, then place the ground seeds into the mixing vessel.
- Peel and mince the garlic cloves, then place into the mixing vessel.
- Add the vinegar to a mixing vessel, either a small mixing bowl or a blender's pitcher.
- Add the salt and pepper to the mixing vessel. You can adjust for taste later.
- Add the vinegar to the mixing vessel and combine with the oil as mentioned above, either by running the blender or whisking manually.
Now, about the blender mess. I don't know how common this is, but evidently the "small" hole in my blender's lid is still big enough to allow vinegar and oil to spew out of it when the blender is running. Result? Oil and vinegar droplets all over the countertop and upper cabinets. I'm thinking that maybe next time I should put a funnel over the lid to cover up most of this opening. That'll probably help with the drizzling, too. Or use a stick blender in a cup. I just have to remember to make sure the blades are fully immersed before turning it on, otherwise I'll have another mess. Or, maybe I could practice first. With water. Outdoors.
COMBINE BEANS AND DRESSING
- Pour the cooked black beans and black-eyed peas into a colander and drain completely.
- Empty the colander into the mixing bowl that already contains the corn, celery, bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno.
- Pour the oil/vinegar mixture over the cooked beans and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to mix. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- You can serve this immediately, but it's better to let it rest in a refrigerator for at least a few hours for the flavors to combine.
YIELDSMeasurements taken while making this year's batch:
- 8 oz. raw black-eyed peas measure approx. 2 cups (!?)
- 8 oz. raw black-eyed peas weigh 9.6 oz. and measure approx. 1-2/3 cups by volume after cooking. This makes no sense. Either the before or after cooking volumetric measure is wrong, or some of these beans mysteriously disappeared during cooking.
- 8 oz. dried black beans weigh 1 lb. and measure 2 cups after soaking but before cooking.
- 8 oz. dried black beans weigh 1 lb. 2 oz. and measure approx. 3 cups by volume after cooking. This is somewhat in conflict with my earlier measurements, which showed that 8 oz. dried black beans yield between 2-2/3 and 2-3/4 cups after cooking. Also, we can see that there is additional water absorption during cooking, but I'm surprised that the volume increased by 50%. I'll have to see where this data anomaly comes from.