Monday, September 22, 2008


Perhaps the joy of chowing down on pink eye peas is contagious.  We certainly converted our Yankee sailing buddy on a recent trip to the Chesapeake.  I had prepped all the food we'd eat aboard his 32-ft Fidelio, and brought the pink eyes, dressed in a light vinaigrette with onions and sweet Hungarian red peppers, to accompany skewers of marinated shrimp kabobs.  Leftover peas were spooned over slices of a ripe, orange heirloom tomato the next evening, and Rob literally licked his plate, then ate any remaining peas in the storage container.
Pink eyes are one type of purple hulled peas, a variety of Southern peas.  Black-eyed peas, the tiny 6-Week (another personal favorite), and crowders are all varieties. We like pink eyes best because of their flavor, size and texture.   
Southern peas are also known as "cowpeas," because they were used as fodder for livestock.  Cowpeas originated in Africa, in Niger, and came across the pond with the slaves, who at least got some protein, and a wonderful flavor, from these types of peas.  
"Southern Caviar" is yet another endearing term for these delightful late summer harvests.   Shelling peas is a mesmerizing, almost meditative activity, easily done as you watch children playing or TV or just sit and chat with somebody on the porch.  You'll get purple fingers, but isn't that a badge of honor?  I've been freezing some, by just bringing a pot full, barely covered with water, to a boil, then draining, rinsing in cold water and bagging.  Some folks even make Purple Hull Jelly by boiling the hulls, then straining the juice and setting that with pectin.  
Folks in Emerson Arkansas hold a Purple Hull Festival every June. How cool is that?
Perhaps this New Year's Day, we'll have pink eyes for our traditional Good Luck dinner.

I just can't seem to get enough figs this year.  They've been at the farmers markets these past few weeks, and I feel like I need to eat my fill before their short season is gone.
Drizzled with a very light honey mustard vinaigrette, served with baby lettuce and either a creamy goat cheese or slivers of hardened goat cheese, well, it's divine.
I had a few figs, maybe 8, that had gone soft on me, so I "stewed" them with some sugar and have refrigerated them, and it tastes and feels a lot like "jam."  I'll use a dollop of top of some goat cheese spread on a toasted baguette or cracker for a lovely appetizer soon.  
And I think I'll have to plant me a bush.  However, do the deer like them?  They eat everything green in my yard, and what the deer don't get, the squirrels do.
That's why I love the farmers market.  Me, a farmer's daughter without a garden. 

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