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Black-eyed peas to die for

The recipe calls for fresh but I always use dried or maybe frozen. Photo by Teak Phillips/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

It probably wouldn't matter if my mother had written down things like recipes, because she tended to forget some key ingredient. But the fact is, she didn't, so her way with black-eyed peas is gone forever. I tried to good-guess for years, but testimony from my daughter told me "they're good but not like Gram's."

Enough, already. I'll make-up or find my own "signature" seasoning for them. And I did -- find one -- a recipe so 180 from Mama's it didn't even feel like betrayal. And much to my surprise, daughter, her in-laws, other family and friends loved the new pea recipe and would do that little chipmunk smacking/chattering thing with their lips while eating them, trying to detect what the strange but totally complementary flavors might be.

Psyche. Just ground allspice and ground chipotle pepper, though now that I think of it, you probably could substitute the peppers in adobo sauce from a can. The recipe is at the end, but truly, it's just a change of seasoning. Go ahead and make your peas as you ordinarily would, starting with a mirepoix and some oil, then a bay leaf or two or three, some thyme and garlic, as much as you like. Cook and stir, cook and stir till all is melded, then -- then -- add the allspice and chipotle, 1/2 teaspoon of each to start with. Till you see how you like the flavor. Dump in peas, water or broth, boil then simmer then wait. It's up to you to jiggle things around till you get it just the way you like it.

No meat necessary, which would have been unlikely anyway, since the recipe was adapted from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone."

We bring this up in the dead of summer only because beans, dried ones anyway, are still relatively cheap when you think of the huge pot of food you get from one $1.19 bag. And they bring to the diet fiber you won't get from burgers or even the whole grain rolls upon which you now serve those meat patties.

And you're going to love these peas served over corn bread.


1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, diced
1 small green pepper, finely diced

1 celery rib, finely diced
3 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili or red pepper flakes (trust us, the chipotle is much, much tastier)

2 cups black-eyed peas, fresh or dried
2 to 2-1/2 cups water or vegetable stock

Heat the oil in a pan (we use a Dutch oven) large enough to hold everything, and add everything down through the garlic. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add allspice and chili and cook a few minutes more (2 or 3 should do it). Add the peas and water or broth, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons salt and cook 20 minutes more. At this point, I begin to mash a spoonful or so against the inside of the pan to hasten the "creaming" of the broth. Serve over corn bread or rice.

So-o-o very good, and thank you Deborah.