Friday, January 7, 2011

The First Dinner of January: Curried Black-Eyed Peas, Brown Rice & Beer

My parents always threw a New Year’s Eve bash. The furniture would be removed, music and drinks would flow, and tables would totter under the weight of food. Yes, my parents liked a good time, and yes this party was to celebrate their wedding anniversary (December 30) as well as the new year. What was not commonly known was there was also another, more superstitious reason.

The first day of a new year isn’t just another day for most people. It’s weighed down with significance and superstition. What you do in the beginning sets the tone for the entire year, determines the course. My mother, a steadfast believer of this, refused to spend money or cook on the first day of the year. So she was always made sure to have plenty of leftovers for January 1.

When I married the Cowboy and got initiated into Texan ways, I learned the importance of black-eyed peas. He insisted on eating them on January 1 to insure good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year. For this tall, dark and practical man of few words to admit to a superstition simply endeared him to me. Made me smile and give him a big hug (yes, it’s got to be love), then cook him those beans.

Unlike a lot of people, I don’t consider cooking a chore. There is a certain kind of peace in chopping and mincing, measuring and mixing. The heady scent of garlic, onion, ginger or the softer scents of cinnamon or vanilla are like aroma therapy. So come January 1, I insist on cooking dinner together (hey, with a superstitious mom and hubby, some of it had to rub off on me).
My 2011 mantra is: Live creatively, consciously, healthfully and simply. And black-eyed peas, an excellent source of Calcium, Folate and Vitamin A, dovetailed beautifully with that philosophy.
I’ve been hearing about the Meatless Monday movement for a while and this year I want to make it a part of my life. The goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15 percent for better health for yourself and the planet. The strategy is simple: Go Meatless once a week. Now I understand the organizers’ reasons for choosing Mondays –Monday is the beginning of the week and helps set the intentions for the rest of the week (again, the importance of the 1st day). Also, Meatless Monday sounds a whole lot more poetic than Meatless ANYOTHERDAY. I tried them all out. 
I love the idea, but couldn’t commit to Monday. Part of living consciously is to pay attention to your body and emotions. So if I happen to crave steak on a Monday, I’m going to let myself enjoy steak that day. Instead, for me, Meatless One Day works better.
So for our first dinner of the year, on January 1, Saturday, the Cowboy & I enjoyed black-eyed peas cooked in a curried yogurt sauce served over brown rice and accompanied by a beer. Okay, so the beer didn’t quite fit the healthy part, but it was Shiner Cheer, an enjoyable nod to end of the holidays.

Continuing the pattern of firsts, this seemed to be perfect for my first 2011 #LetsLunch post.
So, what was your first dinner of the year?

Curried Black-Eyed Peas
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 bay leaves
2 large red potatoes, washed and cubed (I leave the peel on)
1 jalapeno minced (deseeded if you don’t like it hot)
1 small onion, finely sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½-inch ginger root, peeled and grated
1 ½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, cleaned and diced
1 can of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
2 cups of water
½ cup whole yogurt or Greek yogurt
A handful of cilantro, chopped
1.       Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
2.       Add the bay leaves and potatoes, and cook until the latter is turning golden brown
3.       Add the jalapeno, onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion has softened.
4.       Toss in the spices and tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.
5.       Add the bell peppers and black-eyed peas, cook for another 5 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes (the potato should be done). Turn off the heat.
6.       Temper the yogurt with some of the cooked peas, then fold in the yogurt mixture into the rest of the curry. Stir and sprinkle with cilantro.
7.       Serve with rice and sliced lemon. Serves 6 to 8
If you'd like to join Let's Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch -- or, post a comment below.
And don't forget to see other Let's Lunchers' healthy dishes below:
Cheryl’s Watercress Soup at A Tiger In the Kitchen
Emma's Quinoa with Grilled Veggies at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Linda's Mesquite Date Muffins at Free Range Cookies
Mai Hoang's Spicy Cauliflower at Cooking In The Fruit Bowl
Steff's Frittata attempt at The Kitchen Trials


  1. #letslunch is full of tasty dishes I've never tried before - and black eyed peas is one of them! And I *love* anything with brown rice.

  2. Yes, brown rice is a staple in our home. Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  3. This looks just delicious...I've never cooked with black-eyed peas before. I now have to start...thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh! I like the sounds of this dish. Thanks for sharing the recipe for the curry!

  5. so glad y'all liked the post & want to try the recipe. Enjoy & thanx for visiting :)

  6. You had me at curry. No, black-eyed peas. Wait. You also had me at beer. Let's just say this one had me completely....I love love love black-eyed peas and cannot wait to try this.

  7. Loved your comment Ellise. Make sure to send me feedback!