Happy Birthday to my fourth cookbook, Beans and Field Peas: A Savor the South Cookbook and it's available to you starting today! To celebrate, I invite you to read a bit about my book. Look out for a schedule of events, cooking classes, and book signings coming soon!
First off is my cooking class at Southern Season, Chapel Hill (NC) on September 15,2015 at 6:00 pm. Come try my famous fried chicken and some of my favorite recipes from this book! See you there!
I was thrilled to have been invited to write this book, Beans and Field Peas: A Savor the South Cookbook published by the University of North Carolina Press. I seldom get the chance to immerse myself into the study of a single subject for a long period of time. In this case, legumes in the form of beans, field peas, and green beans, offered me an opportunity to investigate and retrieve their historical origins, extoll on their cultural importance in the foodways of an entire region, and to put them into a global perspective.
For over a year, beans and field peas became my obsession. I sought them in farmers’ markets all over the South, bought them in farm stands by the roadsides as I traveled, and cooked them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! I read about them, talked about them, wrote about them, ate them, and even dreamed of them.
I jokingly like to say that it took a Latina to write about the importance of beans in the South. After all, beans have been part of my life since childhood, from the little black beans that made it to my family’s table every week, all the way to the beautiful, thin, and crispy haricot verts that I learned to julienne and cook in butter as a young girl.
However, that’s only part of the reason why I was happy to take on this project. Truth be told, the subject of field peas really clinched the deal for me. Field peas in all of their glory were, for the most part, unknown to me when I moved to North Carolina thirty years ago. Surely, I had enjoyed plenty of bowls of rice and pigeon peas (which I knew as arroz y gandúles), and certainly gobbled down platefuls of black-eyed peas and lima beans in my lifetime. However, the gargantuan array of southern field peas was a discovery to me.
I marveled at the different colors of the field peas, from lime-green butter beans and purple peas with white specks, to golden yellow-eyed peas. I rejoiced in the textural differences between a creamer and a crowder pea, one velvety when cooked, and the other retaining a slightly more toothsome quality. Finally, I delighted in the varying pot likkers that each kind produced.
Then of course, there was the matter of exposing true southern green beans that get better the longer they’re cooked. I don’t mean the dark green, bean-less, and hollow variety of Blue Lakes that we find in modern supermarkets today. I mean those that grow in the gardens of southerners, in poles or in bushes: greasy beans, Kentucky wonders, white or green half runners, and other pods. I mean the kind that bulge with immature seeds inside and that rupture when cooked long and slow, allowing said little beans to escape into the likker while yielding a good dose of protein and delightful textural contrast.
It is my hope that you too will delight in the world of southern beans and field peas and that you learn to cook them the southern way, the new-southern way, and the international way, so that your table is always brimming full of healthy and succulent goodness.
Here’s a recipe to get you started:
Butter Bean, Corn, and Tomato Salad
2 cups butter beans (about ½ pound)
2 cups corn kernels
2 cups seeded, chopped plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup corn or vegetable oil
Place the beans in a pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, skimming off the foam that rises to the top; cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, fill a bowl with iced water. When the beans have finished cooking, drain and immerse them in the ice batch until cool. Drain the peas and transfer them to a large bowl; add the corn and tomatoes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the oil and pour the dressing over the salad; stir until combined.
Makes 4-6 servings
©Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2015; All Rights Reserved. No part or whole of this article may be published without express written permission of the author.