Some ingredients seem born to go together. Apples and cheddar. Watermelon and feta. Chocolate and tahini.
I'm not sure what genius first combined oranges and chipotle, but it had to have been in Mexico, soon after Columbus brought oranges to the Americas, because smoked chiles such as chipotle date to the Aztecs. I applaud whomever it was, as the combination of the sweet-and-sour orange and the smoky-spicy chipotle is sheer perfection.
I was reminded of all this when I saw a recipe for Black-Eyed Peas With Oranges and Chipotle in Ilene Rosen's new book, "Saladish." She pitches it as a twist on the South's traditional New Year's dish, but it's ideal anytime you come across good oranges. She calls for blood oranges, which I'm sure would be beautiful, but I grabbed my beloved Cara Cara oranges for their deep-pink flesh. Navels would be fine, too.
You cut up the oranges and make the dressing while the black-eyed peas cook (although I'd forgive you for using canned peas). Besides protein and other nutrients, the legumes offer an earthy taste dimension. But the dressing is the star. It's so good that I made only one major adjustment - to make more of it.
Black-Eyed Peas With Oranges and Chipotle
Yield: 8 servings (makes about 8 cups)
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed (may substitute 6 cups canned, no-salt-added black-eyed peas) 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed 4 blood oranges or 3 medium navel or Cara Cara oranges 1 or 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce, or more as needed 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned) 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 2/3 cup sunflower, canola or another neutrally flavored vegetable oil 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed 1/2 cup chopped red onion 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro (leaves and tender stems), plus more for garnish
Bring black-eyed peas to boil in large pot of water over high heat. Reduce heat until liquid is gently bubbling; cook until they are tender but not mushy, 30-60 minutes, depending on their age. (The older they are, the longer they take to cook.) Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to the water toward end of cooking time. Drain thoroughly and transfer to large bowl. (If you are using canned black-eyed peas, drain and rinse them, transfer them to the bowl and stir in just 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.)
While peas are cooking, prepare oranges: Use a Microplane or other fine grater to remove 1½ tablespoons zest. Use sharp knife to cut all the peel and any white pith off oranges. Then, working over a bowl, cut between segments (to make supremes), letting them fall into bowl as you work. Squeeze juice from remaining membranes, reserving 1/3 cup.
To make dressing, combine orange zest and reserved juice, chipotle (to taste) and adobo, vinegar and mustard in food processor or blender; pulse to incorporate. With motor running, gradually add oil, pureeing to form smooth dressing. Add black pepper and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt; pulse to incorporate, taste and add more salt, as needed.
Add the red onion, supremed orange segments, all the dressing and 1/2 cup of the cilantro to the bowl with the black-eyed peas and toss to coat evenly. Taste and add more salt, black pepper, adobo or all three, as needed.
Garnish with more cilantro and serve.
Nutrition information per serving (using plain rice vinegar): 330 calories, 10 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar.
Source: Adapted from "Saladish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Heartier, Tastier Way With Vegetables," by Ilene Rosen.