Flowers and Onions and Black-eyed Peas

One more post then must-get-crackin’ cleaning this messy house!

Chives are great. Wikipedia is telling me they are the smallest species of edible onion. (I bet there’s a smaller one, waiting to be discovered by an intrepid forager somewhere, but hey-ho.) In a garden, they are apparently a good pest deterrent, though the flowers are attractive to bees– a wonderful combination. I love them because even as a novice gardener I am able to have them thrive, and because the “scapes” or leaves are so useful as a garnish and a flavour, and because my pot has flowered on and off, through the summer, on into now– late September.

That purple visible in the photo is a beautiful colour, and it’s so fun to eat flowers! This is such a nice dish, was so simple to make: Boil, perhaps having first soaked, the black eyed peas, drain them and let their heat slightly wilt and mellow the raw slivered moons of onion, a nice vinagrette and rehydrated sun dried tomatoes which feel like a nice ingredient to have on hand for a concentrated tomato taste when fresh ones aren’t possible. Salt and pepper, and the flowers, because purple and black and white and green look so great.

When I was really teaching myself to cook (an odd statement, because I still feel I’m always learning, and actively self-teaching)– I had a wonderful and personally influential book called The Natural Gourmet by Annemarie Colbin, who had a cooking school in New York City. (This book also has a very enlightening chapter on The “Five Phase Theory” –wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — in ancient Chinese philosophy as it pertains to cooking and eating. This is something I’d still love to get to grips with, at least intellectually.)

The Natural Gourmet has a recipe that I felt immediate prejudice against, for it’s mixing of world ingredients divorced from  their specific contexts. Nevertheless, I tried to make it, maybe that was 1992 (as the book came out in ’91) — and it’s become an important dish for me.   I’m always varying it but never not loving it, even as it’s morphed into something (usually vegetarian) Hoppin’ John that I seem to make every year, traditionally, on New Year’s Day. The dressing mixed flavours like whole-grain mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and tamari. And in the salad of the legumes she put sun-dried tomatoes. “A dog’s dinner,” I would have thought, had I at the time known the phrase. And how wrong I would have been, because it’s absolutely delicious. And to remind myself to fight one’s own prejudices, I like to use sun-dried tomatoes whenever I cook black-eyed peas.

Thank you Annemarie Colbin.  Here you are at a recent Ted Talk I just found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJtcuNiJnwk

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