Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Sausage & Kale
Plus: Roasted Honeynut Squash with Tahini, New Year's Eve dinner at Workshop Kitchen, and Simon J. Haas on Lunch Therapy.
Happy New Year! We just got back from some epic traveling: a week in Bellingham, Washington where we got snowed in for a few days (which was actually really fun), and then a whirlwind trip to Palm Springs where we rang in the new year with friends. As my mom used to say after traveling with me and my brother: “I need a vacation from this vacation.”
A cozy home-cooked meal is what I craved most on New Year’s Day, when we arrived back in L.A., and knowing that black-eyed peas are supposed to bring prosperity in the new year (it’s a Southern thing), I decided to riff on Kenji’s recipe for black-eyed pea soup with sausage and kale. It was so good (Craig said it was one of the best soups I’ve ever made) that I served leftovers the next night with roasted honeynut squash and tahini sauce… an excellent, nourishing way to kick off the new year. Let me tell you how I made it.
The Recipe: Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Sausage and Kale
It’s embarrassing for someone in their forties to TikTok, but TikTok is what I did when I was making this soup. My goal was to show you step-by-step how it came together, though Craig said the robot voice at the beginning was creepy (I was just trying to emulate the youths!). Anyway, I’m proud of the music choice — who doesn’t love Guys and Dolls? — and hopefully the video makes it clear how quickly and easily this soup comes together.
My main change to Kenji’s recipe is that I don’t think it’s necessary to soak the black-eyed peas before you cook them; as long as you rinse them first, they’ll cook in about an hour. I also made a point to get the sausage really brown at the beginning: I did that by getting the oil very hot before adding the meat then leaving it alone while I chopped the rest of the vegetables. If you leave it alone for a while, you’ll get a nice sear, which creates brown bits at the bottom of the pan, which get picked up when you add the liquid and renders the soup that much more flavorful. (Other tweaks include red chili flakes for heat, more garlic, more sausage, the whole bag of black-eyed peas, a Parmesan rind, and no blending because I didn’t think it was necessary.)
Makes enough for 4
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mild Italian sausage, out of the casing
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you like some heat)
Zest of one lemon, plus more for later
2 quarts chicken stock (homemade or store bought)
1 pound dried black-eyed peas (one 16-ounce bag)
2 bay leaves, dry or fresh
Parmesan rind (optional)
1 bunch kale washed, stemmed, and chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the olive oil in a wide Dutch oven or pot on medium-high heat. When very hot, use your fingers to break up the sausage into the oil and then leave it alone while you chop the rest of the vegetables. Your goal is to get a deep, golden-brown color on the bottom of the meat and then, when you get that, break it up with a wooden spoon and cook until the rest of the sausage until it’s no longer pink.
Add the onion and the celery and a pinch of salt, stir, and cook until the vegetables are translucent (should take a few minutes). Add the garlic, the rosemary, the red pepper flakes, and the lemon zest, stir, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, another 30 seconds.
Add the chicken stock, plus a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil and taste… it should have nice flavor at this point (you don’t want a salt bomb, because it’ll get saltier as the liquid evaporates). Add the black-eyed peas, the bay leaves, and the Parmesan rind (if you have it). Lower the heat to an active simmer — you want bubbles, but not volcanic bubbles — and cook, stirring every fifteen minutes or so, for an hour until the beans are soft and creamy. It would be a good idea to have a kettle of boiling water at the ready in case the liquid reduces too much; if that happens, add 1/2 cup of boiling water at a time plus a pinch of salt until it looks soupy again.
Once the beans are cooked and creamy, use tongs to remove the bay leaves and the Parmesan rind. Stir in all of the kale with another pinch of salt and cook at the same simmer for ten minutes, until the kale is integrated into the soup. Taste one more time for salt, then serve in soup bowls with freshly ground pepper, more red pepper flakes (if you like heat), more lemon zest, and grated Parmesan cheese on top.
The Bonus Recipe: Roasted Honeynut Squash with Tahini Sauce
Funny, I just did a random search for honeynut squash with tahini (because I forgot to take pictures last night) and this image from my own blog came up! That’s an Ottolenghi recipe for roasted butternut squash with red onion and za’atar (click here for the recipe); the one I made last night is much, much simpler, so you can take your pick.
Honeynut squash are basically just mini butternut squash with a slightly different flavor profile. So if you can’t find honeynut, feel free to do this with small butternut squash… it’ll just take a little longer.
2 honeynut squash or small butternut squash
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup tahini (I like Soom)
1 clove garlic, grated
Juice of one lemon
Preheat the oven to 425.
Very carefully — and I mean CAREFULLY — use a sharp knife to cut the squash in half vertically. (This is probably the #1 thing that sends people to the emergency room in the kitchen; squash are hard and slippery, so use your biggest, sharpest knife and make sure your fingers are out of the way.) Scoop the insides and seeds out of the center of the squash with a spoon and discard.
On a cookie sheet, drizzle the squash with olive oil (a few tablespoons) and rub all over. Season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper on all sides (at least a teaspoon of each).
Place the squash cut-side down on the cookie sheet and roast for 20 to 30 minutes. Every ten minutes or so, use a spatula or a pair of tongs to check the color of the squash; you want to get it as deeply caramelized as you can on the skin-side without burning it. Take it as far as it can go just until it’s a deep, bronzed color, then flip it over and finish on the skin side until a knife goes through everything easily. (The skin will be edible too, at least with honeynut squash.)
Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce by stirring together the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. The tahini will seize up so loosen it with water, a few tablespoons at a time, until the tahini resembles thick yogurt.
To serve, place the squash bronzed-side up and drizzle with the tahini sauce, lots of Aleppo pepper, and za’atar.
The Restaurant: New Year’s Eve Dinner at Workshop Kitchen in Palm Springs
There are two nights of the year that you should NEVER go out to dinner: Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Both nights are nightmares for restaurants… and yet, there’s something super festive about going out for a nice New Year’s dinner with a group of friends, especially when you’re in a rental house in Palm Springs.
And so it was that we went with our friends Ryan, Jonathan, Simon, and Carey to Workshop Kitchen in Palm Springs for our New Year’s Eve dinner. As expected, the place was slammed. Our reservation was for 7:45 and we stupidly showed up at 7:30, thinking we may get seated early. As it turned out, the early seating tables didn’t want to get up and we didn’t get to sit down until 8:15. I only mention that, though, to point out how well the restaurant handled the situation: a manager was on the case from the very beginning and as we waited, she brought us free champagne and sparkling cider for those who don’t drink. In fact, the manager was so gracious and helpful, it made me fall in love with the restaurant even more than if we’d been seated right away.
The fixed-price menu ($125 a person) came with several courses plus a cocktail or a mocktail of your choice. You also got to choose your appetizer, and I went with the lobster schnitzel, maybe my favorite course of the night. The lobster was pounded flat, breaded, and fried and served with an aioli. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but it totally worked… the lobster was meaty, like pork or chicken, and held up perfectly to the breading.
As for my cocktail, I had something with Aperol and tequila (I don’t quite remember, it must have been strong) that came in a pretty little coupe.
The second course was a celeriac risotto with shaved truffles that felt decadent and appropriate on such a big night.
For the main course, I followed Simon’s lead and ordered the roasted elk.
I’d never had elk before and this elk made a good case for itself: beautifully cooked and sauced, it was just enough to feel satisfying without making us feel gross and overly full.
Dessert was a little trio involving meringue, a tart, and a brownie.
All of it was scrumptious and we left the restaurant fully ready to conquer 2022. But first we had to watch a drunk Andy Cohen rail against Bill Deblasio on CNN before the ball dropped. What a night!
The Rest: Fridge Tips, Simon Haas, and Links.
Yesterday, I went a bit crazy at the farmer’s market, stocking up on fruits and vegetables in preparation for my new year’s “diet” (in quotes because it’s not really a diet, just a different approach to food and cooking; I’m trying to cut out carbs, sugar, and alcohol for a bit).
With all of the produce that I bought, I knew there was a very good chance that I would forget what was in the fridge. So I made a little list and stuck it with a magnet to the refrigerator door, a great way to keep everything in mind. Now I know what’s in there without having to rifle around.
(In case you’re wondering why the tomatoes are in there, read this.)
A new year means a new season of Lunch Therapy and we’re kicking this one off with an artist who, along with his brother, has work featured in the Smithsonian, LACMA, and The Met. That’s Simon Haas — one of the friends we spent New Year’s with in Palm Springs — and one half of The Haas Brothers whose art is both fun and sophisticated, kind of like Simon himself.
In today’s session, I talk to Simon about his years as a chef, growing up with a famous older brother (Lucas Haas of Mars Attacks and Witness), and the similarities between making art and cooking. Here’s a little video clip.
You can listen to the full episode here and if you like it, please leave a nice review!
Now for some links that caught my attention this week:
Clay pot chicken in a rice cooker? Color me interested (this is from 2014 and I forget how I got here, but I want to try it; Daily Cooking Quest);
LA Food Writers Discuss Their Best Restaurant Meals of 2021… so many new places to go (Eater LA);
Food trend predictions for 2022… I predict hummus will be very big this year (NYT);
Veuve Clicquot is not good champagne… a bit late for New Year’s, but good to know (Gawker).
That’s all for this week, folks!
In case you missed it, in Thursday’s subscribers-only newsletter I listed My New Year’s Food Resolutions and tried to make them as specific and achievable as possible (less Postmates, more Costco). If you’d like to read that, plus have access to my full archives, here’s a discount code that gets you 20% off forever.
Until next time….