After a long food and drink binge week in New York, I thought it would be good to do something light and healthy for dinner. Black eyed peas are a traditional new year’s good luck food, so I figured I’d make a simple bean soup.
I love beans – they are both tasty and healthy. In the past I have always cooked using canned beans. But lately I have wanted to start cooking with dried beans for a number of reasons. Dried beans are generally cheaper than canned beans, they are better for the environment (small plastic bag versus metal can) and also it seems more punk rock to me for some reason. Anyways, it turns out that it is a lot harder than opening a can.
There are two schools of thought out there regarding cooking with dried beans: to soak or not to soak. Dried beans need lots of water and heat to cook. Most recipes advocate soaking the beans overnight, or bringing them to a boil in a pan of water then letting them soak in the warm water for an hour before cooking. Lately though, some people have been saying that you don’t need to bother with soaking your beans. Instead, just allow some extra time for cooking. When given the opportunity to cut some corners I’m all for it, so the non-soaking method seemed like the way to go.
After two attempts at the non-soaking method I’m left feeling skeptical of this technique. The first time was a couple of weeks ago when I made some black beans. It was my first attempt at making dried beans, and I made a couple of errors. I used too much water and I cooked them too hot. If you boil your beans rather than simmer them, they tend to explode. It took forever and although my black beans tasted good, they looked like hell.
For my black eyed pea soup I once again skipped the soaking method. I used the appropriate amount of liquid and simmered instead of boiled. I had better luck with how the beans looked (although they were still broken up a bit), but the amount of time it took to finish the beans caused my veggies to over-cook a little bit. Next time I am going to do an overnight soak or at least the quick-method soak and see if that makes a difference.
Bean method aside, this soup was the perfect thing for the first day of my holiday recovery diet. It is simple and inexpensive to make, has a nice, refreshingly simple flavor, and the perfect thing for a cold Missouri afternoon on the couch watching a football game. We enjoyed this soup with warm loaf of bread. The perfect start to the new year.
New Year’s Black Eyed Pea Soup Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
6 cups stock
1.5 cups dried black eyed peas
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil to the hot pan, then add the carrots, celery, onion and bay leaves. Cook for five to ten minutes until the vegetables start to soften, then add the stock and the beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and reduce the soup to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours until beans are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.