Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bean Jazz #5, Black Eyed Peas, Mediterranean Style

For the last 10 years or so I have made a dish with black eyed peas, mustard or collard greens, onions and feta cheese. It was pretty tasty but I recently had a case of Need To Tweak Syndrome (NTTS). Most of the time when I experience the NTTS, the result is odd and maybe not so good. However, this time I thought and thought, dozed off, thought some more and came up with this tweaked version of my old standby black eyed peas recipe. I don’t know if they eat black eyed peas in the Mediterranean region, but if they did, I imagine they would be something like this...


1 lb. dried black eyed peas
2 extra large or 4 medium onions
1.5 lb. fresh spinach or 1 lb frozen spinach (more or less to taste)
2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2/3 cup Vinaigrette or Italian dressing that you like

Step 1. Soak and cook the black eyed peas. I use the quick soak method: In a large pot, cover the beans with about two inches of water, bring to a boil for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave the beans to soak for at least an hour. Drain the beans and cover with an inch of water and return to a simmer. Leave the beans on simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours, until they are tender.

Step 2. While the beans are cooking, when you have about 45 minutes to go, coarsely chop the onions and sauté them in a large frying pan over high heat until they start to turn a russet (reddish brown) color, about 7-10 minutes.

Step 3. Add about half the fresh spinach to the onions and cover the pan. (If you’re using frozen spinach, you can add it all at one time.) After a few minutes, stir the shrunken spinach into the onions and add the rest of the spinach, shrink it down again for a few minutes and stir it in.

Step 4. Add the diced tomatoes and stir them in, bring to a low boil and simmer the onion, spinach and tomato mixture for about 10 minutes.

Step 5. While that is simmering, chop the walnuts. Add the walnuts and feta cheese to the mixture. Simmer for about 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted.

Step 6. Drain the cooked beans and return them to the pot. (You can also use canned beans if you like, about 3 or 4 cans ought to do it). Pour the onion, tomato, spinach, walnut and feta mixture into the beans. Serve over rice or with bread.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sidebar #2 Congo Squares

I must have dozed off there for a minute... Anyway, when I was a kid, in the 60's, for potluck dinners and bake sales, my mom made a super delicious desert called Congo Squares. I have no idea where that name came from, but the recipe came from Delores Gravenstreter who, to the best of my knowledge, was a 60's suburban Detroit mom, much like my mother. I remember bringing a pan of these to school for a third grade bake sale and being sad that I didn't get to eat them all. Last year I discovered the recipe in my mom's recipe box and started baking them myself. They taste every bit as good as I remember and as good as you would expect 60's-suburban-mom-baked treats to taste. Take me back baby...

Congo Squares from the kitchen of Delores Gravenstreter


2 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup margarine (though I imagine butter would work too)
1 lb. light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup nut meats (I use walnuts or pecans)
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate bits (nowadays we call them chocolate chips)


1. Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt
2. Melt shortening & add brown sugar
3. Cool slightly (this is important, be patient, you don't want to cook the eggs in step 4 or melt the chocolate bits in step 7)
4. Add eggs ones at a time beating well after each one
5. Add the dry ingredients, mixing them in well
6. Add the nuts
7. Add the chocolate bits
8. Spread it all in a 10 1/2" x 16 1/2" x 3/4" pan
9. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes
10. Pull them out of the oven, cut them into squares and go back in time