1 cup dried black-eyed peas or yellow-eyed beans, rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, chopped
1 quart cool water
1 smoked ham hock, split
1/2teaspoon ground red pepper (or more,
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup long-grain white rice (preferably Texmati or basmati)
I teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of ground cloves
3 tablespoons chopped plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1. Soak the black-eyed peas overnight in 2 inches of cold water. Or quick-soak peas by bringing them and enough cold water to cover by 2 inches to a boil over moderately high heat in a large pan; boil the peas for 2 minutes, remove the pan from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven and cook onion, celery, and garlic until slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Add scallions, and cook 2 more minutes.
3. Add the 1 quart cool water, ham hock, red pepper, bay leaf, parsley, and peas to the Dutch oven. Bring mixture to a boil, skim the surface to remove any fat, and cook at a bare simmer for 2 hours, or until peas become tender. Add the salt a few minutes before the end of the cooking time. (The peas should not be too tender or they will become mushy when combined with the rice.) Remove the ham hock, and cut the meat into fine dice. Add the meat to the beans, and discard the ham bones.
4. Add rice, 1/2teaspoon of thyme, ground cloves, and enough water to cover the rice completely. Stir gently and simmer, covered, over very low heat for 25 minutes, or until the rice is done. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of thyme at the last minute along with additional ground red pepper, if desired. Season to taste with salt. Remove the bay leaf. Serve steaming hot in bowls garnished with tomatoes, scallions, parsley, and mint.
This mildly spicy bean-and-rice combo is a classic in the low country (that's the area around Charleston, South Carolina). Most agree that it was brought here by African slaves, but no one can figure out where it got its name. No one's even sure if the original dish contained black-eyed peas, pigeon peas, or yellow-eyed beans. Our favorite theory is that it was originally made from pigeon peas, called pois a pigeon in the French-speaking Caribbean; if you pronounce the last two words of that French name, you get something very close to hoppin John. But don't worry about the etymology. Just make sure to serve the dish as soon as it's ready-and, if you want it to bring you good luck, serve it (as they do in the South) on New Year's Day. Serves 6 as a side dish