Stewed Black-eyed Peas with Ham

My friend's girlfriend came to live with him for the summer, and with him also being my upstairs neighbor, we got the opportunity to all hang out a lot. Now it's time for her to move away and go back to school, so last night we had a little going away party for her. I chose to host the party on my deck so we could have plenty of room for everyone. The theme of the party was "healthy soul food." It seems almost contradictory to put "healthy" and "soul food" in the same sentence, because I always imagine bacon fat-laden vegetables and fried foods. Being from the north, southern soul food was also something a bit foreign to me as well. The foods that fill my soul aren't those in the traditional line-up of southern food...personally I find lasagna to be the most soul-satisfying dish of my youth. But I digress...

I did a search online for soul food recipes, and I found that a lot of recipes center around vegetables, which of course are healthy. While there often is bacon fat included, you have the choice to use other ingredients that could make the recipe healthier. That being said, one of the recipes I chose to make was stewed black-eyed peas with ham. This recipe is honestly a derivation of an Emeril Lagasse recipe that I knew would taste good, but quite simply I didn't have the time to make. To make the recipe quick, I cut out soaking the peas and just used frozen. I used lean ham chunks instead of fattier ham hock pieces (of course I didn't have time to cook a ham hock down...). I also added more vegetables by starting with the "trinity" of vegetables seen in creole and cajun cuisine (peppers, onions, celery). There were really delicious and nicely seasoned with herbs, vegetables, and ham flavor. They were perfect with the rest of the food we had for dinner: barbeque chicken, corn casserole, salad, alligator, and corn bread.

Here are some photos of our evening of al fresco soul food dining:

Our table, which was full of food

Fried Alligator, which apparently was a Paula Deen recipe. So good!

Stewed Black-eyed Peas with Ham
Stewed Black-eyed Peas with Ham
Printable Recipe

1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 small green bell pepper, finely diced (add some fresh green chili for some heat)
4 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz lean ham cubes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
32 oz frozen black-eyed peas
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (plus more, if needed)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot, then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and saute until transluscent.
2. Add the ham to the vegetables and cook until warmed, then add the thyme, bay leaves, black-eyed peas, and broth. Season with pepper, however be careful when adding more salt because the ham is salty. Partially cover the pan with a lid and simmer at least 30 minutes, stirring often. The black-eyed peas can be cooked longer at medium-low temperature, however it may be necessary to add more broth. Taste for salt and pepper content before serving.

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