Black Eyed Pea Soup
Photo: James Lenhart / Contributor
Many are ready to put this year behind us. Countless lives have been lost, families torn apart and entire businesses washed away. For those of us in the restaurant business, it has been a reckoning of sorts; we’ve learned some tough lessons, and a new order is emerging. On a happier note, being sequestered has reminded me of why I continue love being around food — the simple joys of cooking for those we love and the community we have built around it.
Ever since I tasted it upon arriving from India and discovering the health benefits, I embraced cooking with olive oil. Over the years, I continued experimenting with what spices work best with it. When my son Virag spent a semester in Spain, he brought back a freshly harvested bottle by his host mother’s family’s olive groves. It forever changed the way I look at the green elixir. As with all food, knowing the source makes all the difference.
Early this year, I was introduced to a local impassioned olive-oil aficionado from Tuscany who spends every fall traveling through parts of Europe to bring back the best-tasting oils. I finally understood how to taste olive oil (swish it in a tiny glass and drink it straight up), the subtleties of single origin and how much high-heat cooking or terroir affect the flavor, whether whisked into a salad dressing or drizzled on stews and pilafs.
Drizzled on this good-luck black-eyed pea soup, a single-origin olive oil with strong notes of fruitiness, bitterness and pungency beautifully complements the sweetness of the cardamom, cinnamon and carrots. Here’s to ending a memorable yet forgettable year and lessons learned. May we all emerge stronger and more enlightened.