Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pasta with black eyed peas and parsley pesto

This recipe is inspired by a black eyed pea focaccia sandwich that I had many years ago in a market in Perth. It was the first time I was eating black eyed peas not cooked with Indian spices. The focaccia was lightly toasted and stuffed with black eyed peas smashed with some roasted garlic, roasted red peppers,  and arugula. It was fresh and filling.

I really liked the combination of ingredients and wanted to use them in a pasta. When I started thinking about it, black eyed peas and pasta sounded like it would not go together, but then again, pasta with cannellini beans is very common.  Hence, I decided to go ahead with it and the result was very successful. I cooked some black eyed peas and sauteed them with some sweet and tangy sun dried tomatoes in olive oil to crisp the beans a tiny bit. I skipped the roasted red peppers since I didn't have any and added roasted cippolini onions and fingerling potatoes and tied it all together with a parsley and walnut pesto. Every bite of this pasta has a variety of textures and flavors and makes a great winter dish. It is a wonderful dish for entertaining, since all the components can be made in advance - all you have to do is boil the pasta and toss together.

Pasta with black eyed peas and parsley pesto

3 cups campanelle pasta (It is a flower shaped pasta – any other short cut pasta will work, but these look very pretty)
6 oz cippollini onions (about 10 small onions)
6 oz organic fingerling potatoes (I like the Earthbound brand)
1/3 cup dried black eyed peas 
½ cup sundried tomatoes (I used the dehydrated ones)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
7 tablespoons parsley walnut pesto (recipe follows)

  1. In a small bowl, cover the dried black eyed peas with 3 inches of water and let it stand overnight. When you are ready to use them, drain. In a small saucepan, add the drained black eyed peas and 3 inches of water and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cook for 25 minutes till the black eyed peas are tender. Skim occasionally while simmering. Drain and set aside.

  1. While the black eyed peas are cooking, preheat the oven to 400 °F.

  1. In the meantime, slice off the top and bottom of the cippollini onions and peel off the skin. Toss them with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Note: It is important that the onions be small, otherwise cut into halves or quarters after roasting depending on size so that they can be eaten in one bite. Set them on one side of a baking sheet.

  1. Wash the fingerling potatoes and cut them down the middle lengthwise. If the potatoes are long, cut them so that they are about an inch and a half to two inches max to mimic the length of the pasta, in this case campanelle or flower pasta. Toss with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the same baking sheet as the onions, cut side down, so that they get a nice brown color and a crisp crust.

  1. Place the baking sheet in the center rack of the pre-heated oven. After 20 minutes, flip the potatoes and the onions to brown the other side. Put them back in the oven and remove after 10 more minutes. Set them aside to cool if not adding to the pasta immediately.

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring it once to ensure it does not stick to the pot. Drain the pasta to be added to the black eyed peas and sundried tomato mixture.

  1. While the pasta is cooking, chop the sun dried tomatoes into ½ inch pieces. Heat a medium skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the drained and cooked black eyed peas and the chopped sundried tomatoes. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes till the black eyed peas are slightly crisp. Add the roasted onions, fingerling potatoes, drained pasta and toss well. Add the parsley pesto and mix well.

Serves 3 as a Main course with a green salad and some garlic bread.

Parsley walnut pesto

2 cups parsley leaves only
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup walnuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Place all the ingredients in a food processor except the oil and continue to pulse until it almost begins to form a paste. Scrape down the sides with a spatula. Then with the food processor still running, slowly add the oil till the mixture is well blended.

Makes little more than a cup.

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