Back in February I planned to work on two vegan items: a baked pasta and black-eyed pea chili. Baked pasta had been on my mind because I just love noodles. Thick vs. thin; short vs. long; rice vs. wheat … pasta offers so many delicious choices! In all honesty, despite the fact that Asian noodle bowls have become my default quick meal, I would be hard pressed to choose between a steaming bowl of Chinese-style, dumpling noodle soup and a plate of penne all’arrabbiata.
My desire to create a black-eyed pea-based chili, on the other hand, is owed to chef Matthew Gansert. A local gastropub had been featuring his vegan black-eyed pea chili. It was a perfect winter dish: wonderfully rich, spicy, and served with homemade tortilla chips, which formed the perfect scoop. (Don’t even get me started about his vibrant millet salad!) But earlier this year the gastropub changed “concept,” Matthew headed to Brooklyn, and with him went the chili.
Never one to sit and sulk I thought, “Well I’ll just make my own chili.” But there was a slight problem: since it had never occurred to me that I might someday need to make it myself, I never paid his chili the “right” sort of attention. That is, I simply savored it–never noting various vegetables, never peeling back its layers of flavor. So instead of trying to recreate it from memory, I decided to start from scratch. My chili certainly isn’t that chili, but it suits the eclectic weather we’ve been experiencing: hearty enough to chase away lingering snows, but bright with a spring-like mixture of fresh herbs added just before serving.
- 1-1 1/4 cups of dried black-eyed peas
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2-3/4 tsp smoked bittersweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp chili pepper (more or less, I used marash, go easy if using cayenne)
- olive or other cooking oil
- can or pack of diced, stewed, whole, and/or fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 cup unsalted vegetable broth
- salt to taste
- generous handful of chopped herbs (I used scallions, fresh oregano, parsley, and cilantro)
- soak the peas overnight in plenty of water, drain and rinse when ready to cook
- dice the pepper and onion (your choice, I went big enough that they wouldn’t fall apart during cooking)
- smash and mince the garlic
- heat oil in a big pot over medium heat (enough oil so that the bottom is lightly covered)
- sauté the onion until it starts to soften, add the pepper and garlic and stir
- add the spices and stir until fragrant (this happens quickly)
- add the soaked and drained beans, tomatoes (with their juice), and vegetable broth, stir
- bring the pot to a boil, adding water if need
- cover and simmer on low until beans are tender (mine took little over an hour)
- check your chili, if it’s a bit watery, open the lid and let some of the excess liquid boil off
- just before serving mince one or two scallions and coarsely chop herbs, stir in just before serving or sprinkle on individual servings
NOTE: I ended up not adding any additional salt because the tomatoes contained enough to for the entire pot. That said, I think I could have doubled the tomatoes and turned up the heat by doubling the chili pepper.