smoky spicy split peas

February 14, 2010

This is a new recipe I discovered from Tom Philpott in Grist Magazine. It is thick, and smokey, and really good when you’ve got a chill in the bone and need something that will stick to the ribs. If you eat it with rice (or another grain) you’ve got a complete protein in combination with the split peas. I never liked split peas but with this new discovery I’m quite a fan. Buy some really good smoked Spanish paprika and the recipe will hum. The first thing you need to do is get your mise en place – a french cooking term that essentially means, “get your shit together.” My friend Emily thinks it’s a great term and I now hear her regularly say “I’ve got to go and get my mise en place!”

1 1/2 cups split peas, rinsed and picked through for rocks

1 large onion

1 large carrot

1 large celery stalk, chopped

2 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

4 1/2 cups water or homemade stock

some decent extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons of Spanish smoked paprika

a wedge of lemon or some wine vinegar

sea salt and pepper

flat-leaf parsley or arugula, chopped

a little crushed red chile pepper, optional but really nice

Cover bottom of a medium heavy-bottom pot with your everyday olive oil. Turn heat to a gentle medium. After a minute, add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring often, for ten or so minutes, until veggies are soft but not browned. If they threaten to turn brown, turn heat down a little.

Add the garlic and the paprika. Cook, stirring, until garlic perfumes the air, a minute or so. Add the peas, stir to mix with the veggies. Add the water or stock; bring to boil; cover; turn heat to low; let simmer.

As the peas cook, check them every few minutes. If they seem on the verge of drying out, add some hot water or stock. While they’re cooking, chop about half a bunch of parsley or several arugula leaves for garnish. The peas should be done in about an hour, maybe a little less. They are ready when they are very soft.

When they are done, add a vigorous twist or three of black pepper, and taste. Stir in a teaspoon of salt. Now add a small amount of acid—a teaspoon or so lemon juice or vinegar. You don’t want it to taste lemony or vinegary; you just want the acid to balance the flavors. Taste again and adjust for salt, pepper, and acid. More smoked paprika could be added at this stage if you want.

To serve, ladle into warm bowls over brown rice or toasted crusty bread. Drizzle with the best olive oil you have—this dish will showcase its flavor—add a dash of crushed chile flakes, and a good sprinkle of chopped greens.

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