Not those Black Eyed Peas, though their music is quite sprightly, but these loverly legumes. It is time for another round of My Legume Love Affair (MLLA), the blog event that celebrates legumes and beany dishes of all kinds, and which is the brainchild of Susan the Well Seasoned Cook. This month's MLLA event is being hosted way up north by Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.
I had some dried black eyed-peas that I wanted to cook up and perfume with some preserved lemon that I had made a couple of months back during my exploration of Middle Eastern cooking inspired by Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir "The Language of Baklava". This great book was the second book pick for the Cook the Books club (now we're all reading Tony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential", so that should inspire me to cook up something in the French bistro manner. Or take up chain smoking. Hopefully the former).
Back to preserved lemons.
I had checked out Claudia Roden's great "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food" and immediately peppered it with an armful of bookmarks to note all the recipes I wanted to try. One thing that intrigued me was preserved lemons, which are a fragrant ingredient in many Arab dishes. I remember poring through my mom's old copy of the gigantic "Larousse Gastronomique" when I was just a budding teen foodie and being particularly fascinated by one of the first entries, "Lemon Achar", which was a way of preserving lemons with salt. I never did get through my intention to read that whole thousand page volume, but I did come back to the Lemon Achar entry a many times. It seemed so exotic and tasty to read about.
Back to the preserved lemons again.
I followed Roden's recipe for making these citrusy goodies, which involved slicing them down to their nubs, but not quite, and then boiling them a bit, removing the pulp, salting them and packing them into sterlized jars under a lot of olive oil. I had to return her book to the library, so I can't quote her exact recipe, but I did find some other Preserved Lemon recipes on the Internet here (including Roden's 1970 recipe version) and here which sound equally good, though they don't involve boiling and must be a good bit saltier.
I waited a month to let my lemons ripen and then tried a bit. It's very soft and citrusy, without the harsh bite that the white pith often leaves. A delicate taste indeed and one which inspired me to use it in this Middle Eastern-inspired salad:
Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Preserved Lemon
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight in cold water
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
Juice of one lemon (1/4 cup juice)
1/2 olive oil
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh dill (I had some frozen dill in the freezer)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 of a preserved lemon, finely chopped
Soak dried peas overnight. Drain and add fresh water to cover in a medium pot. Add onions and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until peas are tender but not mushy, about 20-25 minutes. Drain. Remove bay leaves.
Mix lemon juice, olive oil and dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss peas with this dressing. Garnish with bits of preserved lemon.
This salad could be served warm or chilled, though Dan and I preferred it at room temperature, so we took it out of the refrigerator about a half hour before serving. This Black-Eyed Pea Salad is lovely served with a green salad and a side of grilled fish.
Makes 8 side dish servings.
Laurie will no doubt have an Alaskan-sized roundup of leguminous dishes to feature after the March 31st deadline, so we can all look forward to that. Love your legumes!