Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes and Black-Eyed Peas-
Perhaps potatoes and beans don’t go together as easily as a horse and carriage or more on point, rice and beans. Still, combining local and organic Russian banana fingerling potatoes with delicious and easy to cook black-eyed peas makes for a hearty meal. Using “banana” to describe these fingerlings is slightly misleading since they are small in size, though with a banana shape and their yellowish color, the term is fitting. With their firm texture, they’re a great tasting potato. Developed in Russia and the Baltic Region, they’ve acquired the descriptive “Russian banana” nomenclature given their shape and origin. Served with a seasonal salad of fresh local Boston lettuce grown by the same local, organic farm, Slack Hollow Farm of Argyle (Washington County), NY [www.slackhollowfarm.com/about.htm], which was the source of the potatoes, an early fall meal was readied for the appetites of good friends who maintain a vegetarian diet. This meal was especially appealing since the food used was all organically grown, and with the organic fingerling potatoes priced at $2.99 per pound and the organic black eyed peas on sale at my local food coop at $1.49 per pound, a very economical meal as well.
Black-eyed peas have a thinner skin than most beans, and cook up easily and do not require soaking, though I like to soak them for a couple of hours before cooking which ensures a very tender bean. The cowpea is the fresh bean from which the black-eyed pea is derived. Edible, the wonderful guide to the world’s food plants, describes the origins of the cowpea: “[D]omesticated in West Africa around 3000 BCE. It reached India at some point after 1500 BCE and also taken to Southeast Asia. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish and Portuguese carried cowpeas to the New World. . . . [A] hot-climate plant…currently grown in Africa, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and the southern United States” (Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008, www.nationalgeographic.com/books).
The black-eyed peas are prepared before cooking the potatoes. When the potatoes are nearly tender (after cooking them in olive oil in a pan on the top of the oven), they are added to the black-eyed peas and pick up the flavors from the sweet onions, garlic, fresh celery leaves, and red pepper used in the preparation of the black-eyed peas. The celery leaves and garlic are from my home garden, and the garlic which was harvested about a month ago remains juicy and fresh. The celery which remains growing in the garden has been the source of delicious leaves which I’ve used throughout the summer for seasoning dishes. The wonderful produce department at my local food coop, the Honest Weight [www.hwfc.com], was the source of the fingerling potatoes as well as a very special organic onion, also grown by Slack Hollow Farm, known as an Ailsa Craig onion ($1.29 per pound), named after an island off the coast of Scotland from which they were introduced into America in 1887 (according to the sign at the food co-op which included a drawing of a steep-cliff island of an artistic worker in the produce department).
1/2 cup black eyed peas
1 garlic bulb
1 good-sized Ailsa Craig onion (or other sweet onion)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
10 celery leaves
Rinse 1/2 cup of dried black eyed peas and place in bowl and cover with water. Soak for 2 hours. Peel and dice one garlic bulb and one good-sized Ailsa Craig onion. Cover bottom of a medium sized pot with olive oil and heat the oil over low to medium heat. [I use Napa Valley Naturals organic olive oil, www.napavalleytrading.com. According to the bottle, this extra virgin and organic, first cold pressing, olive oil was “from California’s Sacramento Valley and Argentina’s Cordoba Valley.” I had purchased the olive oil on sale at the local food co-op for $9.99. The 25.4 ounce bottle, which is regularly priced at $15.99 at the co-op, was a nice bargain at the sale price.] Add garlic and onion and stir. Cook until soft (approximately 10 minutes). Rinse the black-eyed peas, which have been soaked, and add them to the pot with one cup of water. Add 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper, chopped celery leaves and stir. [The tablespoon of Simply Organic crushed red pepper, www.simplyorganicfoods.com which I use, adds some spicy heat. I like to keep a bottle of crushed red pepper in the cupboard and wait until it goes on sale at the food coop- regularly priced at $4.09, it was a bargain on sale at $2.49.] Cook until black-eyed peas are tender, approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding additional water if necessary.
Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes
Rinse 8-10 Russian banana fingerling potatoes. Slice into quarters lengthwise. Cover bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat, over low to medium heat. Add sliced potatoes, and cook undisturbed over low to medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir potatoes, and cook for 15 more minutes, turning potatoes to cook all sides, without stirring too often. If necessary, lower heat to avoid scorching. When tender, add potatoes to pot of black-eyed peas.
Cook black-eyed peas and potatoes together over low heat for approximately 10 more minutes to meld the beans and potatoes. Yields approximately 4 hearty servings. Enjoy. (FWB 9/11/10)