vegan black eyed pea and swiss chard minestrone

Black-eyed Pea and Swiss Chard Vegan Minestrone

Paging the latest issue of Food and Wine magazine I stumbled upon a recipe for minestrone, which reminded me how much I love this hearty bean soup. Many variations use some sort of meat like sausage, bacon, pancetta or ham, but I wanted a vegetarian {vegan actually} version of it.

Since I have been trying my luck with black eyed peas lately, it seemed like a great recipe to use them. I didn’t grow up eating this dalmatian looking legume and didn’t know what to expect the first few times I cooked it, but they are easy to manage, hold their shape well while cooking and have a subtle earthy flavor. It’s said that this cowpea – as it’s also known- originated in North Africa and was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish settlers becoming a favorite in the south.

Black eyed peas cook fast if they have been soaked over night, and cook even faster in a pressure cooker. I grew up cooking with a pressure cooker and was one of my first acquisitions in my married life here in the states, but after working my inexpensively made cooker to death I fell into the hands of convenience and began using canned beans {which are good to have for on the fly meals, but don’t taste as good and cost more than the dried counter parts.}

vegetables for vegan minestrone

For this soup I utilized the services of mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomato paste, and plenty of herbs and spices for flavor and depth. Tomatoes have an important place in this soup, so I like to use jar whole tomatoes because they have better flavor than the canned ones, which to me taste a bit metallic. I wish tomatoes were in season when this soup comes to mind, or that I had a green house in my backyard to grow some san marzanos during the cold months {now that’s an idea}.

I cook the peas in water with salt, black pepper, minced onion, garlic, bay leaf and dried Italian herbs for about an hour {after soaking overnight}, and reserve the bean liquid to make the soup.
Then, build deep flavors by sautéing more onion, mushrooms, carrots and garlic, adding tomato paste and cooking it all until a rich mahogany color develops. Add the mashed jar tomatoes, herbs and bring to a boil  before adding the beans with their liquid, and the swiss chard.swiss chard for vegan minestroneI prefer swiss chard to the more popular kale because it has more of a buttery mouth feel when cooked than its thicker, tougher cousin, plus I didn’t jumped head first on the kale wagon, or the juicing wagon for that matter.
At this point, I sit back with a book in hand and let heat do its magic on my dinner for about 30 minutes. Then let the soup cool for a few minutes, because for whatever reason these kind of foods get better as they sit, before serving it.

Sitting in the dining room looking out to the snowy backyard holding a warm bowl of this soup with a thick chunk of crusty bread, with a fuzzy scarf and knitted sweater is a romantic way to forget the short days and frigid nights of winter.vegetarian black eyed pea minestrone

Black-eyed Pea and Swiss Chard Vegan Minestrone

Black eyed peas are a great legume for this hearty soup, they hold their shape giving a nice texture and bite to this vegan meal. Together with some crusty bread this soup is a perfect winter addition.

PEAS:
1 cup black eyed peas – dried soaked overnight in 2 cups of water
5 cups of water
1/2 onion finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon dried paprika (if you have smoked paprika use half the amount)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

SOUP
1 medium onion, small diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups of sliced mushrooms (button or cremini)
1 medium carrot, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 swiss chard leaves, sliced (ribs removed) – my dog loves eating the ribs of kale and chard
1-15 oz jar tomatoes (or canned) – mashed with a fork or lightly pureed

Cook the beans for 1 to 1-1/2 hours on medium heat in a regular pot, or 30-40 minutes in a pressure cooker.
In a large pot set over medium high heat, sauté the onions and mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of oil for 5 minutes or until the mushroom liquid has evaporated
Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic and carrots, sauté 2-3 minutes
Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute
Add tomatoes, spices, beans and their water, bring to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes before adding the chard
Add the chard check for seasoning and cook another 15-20 minutes.
Serve with crusty bread

~ Paula

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