Black-eyed peas are a traditional Jewish New Years food dating back to the Talmudic period over 1500 years ago, and eaten with the accompanying blessing: “May it be Thy will … that our good deeds shall be plentiful as the black-eyed peas.”
More broadly, black-eyed peas for New Years are a multicultural phenomenon, eaten around the world to usher in the new year, as a symbol of luck, prosperity, and/or in association with other milestone events, including Emancipation of African-American slaves in January 1963. There is no reason to wait for the holidays to make this delicious black-eyed pea salad as an easy summer salad or nutritious add-on for your Buddha bowls.
And black-eyed peas are first among equals in terms of legumes – despite their modest size they pack an amazing nutritional prebiotic punch:
Black-eyed peas are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and other key micronutrients. One cup of black-eyed peas (about 2 servings) contains approximately 194 calories, 13 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 35 grams of carbs, 88 percent DV folate, 50 percent DV copper, 23 percent DV iron, and 21 percent DV of both phosphorous and magnesium.The Spruce Eats
Black-eyed peas and other Prebiotics are critical for good nutrition and gut health; what I like to call the unsung heroes of the Microbiome Diet (more about that here).
While I had grown up eating chickpeas, lentils, spit-peas, etc., and considered myself fluent in the language of legumes, my initial efforts with black-eyed peas were not a success. To be totally transparent, I found black-eyed peas baffling. After a number of valiant efforts to make black-eyed peas palatable my family while we were living in Manila, Philippines in the mid-90’s, I took a break. (We enough on our plate in Manila.)
So for a time black-eyed peas were ‘the legume that got away;’ I kept them in the back of my mind while cooking other things. Then late one December I ran across a special New Years Eve recipe that I was able to modify for my family.
With this recipe, I was truly able to go from zero to hero.
The resulting Black-Eyed Pea Salad immediately became one of my son Aaron’s favorites, so much so that after a while he would simply ask for his appetizer – and we understood exactly what he wanted. We began to call it “Aaron’s Appetizer” and it has never fallen out of rotation.
This Black-Eyed Pea Salad is vegetarian and kosher (dairy); and can easily also be made vegan (see details below):
To Do Ahead: Simmer 1 bag of dried black-eyed peas (app. 2 cups / 450 – 500 grams) in water with 1 bay leaf for 30 – 40 minutes, until tender.
While the black-eyed peas are cooking, prepare the vegetables which are all diced in 1/2″ (or 1.25 cm) pieces:1
1 shallot OR 1/2 cup mild onion, 1/2 cup red pepper, 1/2 cup green pepper, 1.2 cup carrot, 1/2 cup cucumber
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1 T julienned basil (optional)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese*
1 – 3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 whole lemon if it is small)
1/2 – 1 tsp lemon zest, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
- Reserving the cooking liquid (its great to use in soup), drain the tender black-eyed peas and discard the bay leaf.
- Assemble the salad with diced fresh vegetables, herbs, and feta cheese.
- Stir in the salad dressing
- Season with black pepper to taste
*To make vegan Black-Eyed Pea salad, omit the feta cheese and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, to taste. You can also try this with vegan feta.