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Crowder Peas With Cornbread

Crowder Peas With Cornbread
Jessica Strelitz for NPR

When I bought crowder peas, also in the shell bean family, from the farmers market near my house in Virginia, the girl who sold them to me said she hated having to deal with them -- even on New Year's (they are very similar to black-eyed peas). When I told her that I was going to spice them up with chili and jalapeno-laced hot pepper jelly, she relented. It's all about the preparation. The salty, cold tomatoes pair well with the creamy, spiced beans and sweet, warm cornbread. Pepper jelly is available at most grocerie stores and farm stands. You could also serve this over rice.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

For The Peas

2 cup fresh crowder peas (also called cowpeas)

2 slices smoked bacon

1 teaspoon chili powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 fresh Roma tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced

Lightly boil shelled peas in large pot in enough water to just cover them for 10 minutes, covered.

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain off grease and set aside for cornbread.

Add bacon, chili powder, salt and pepper to beans and bring back to boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Uncover peas. Mash lightly while still in the pot using a fork or potato masher. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Separately, season the diced tomatoes with salt and set aside.

For The Cornbread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

Bacon grease from pea preparation (optional)

Hot pepper jelly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray or butter.

Combine dry ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Add milk, oil, egg and bacon grease (if using) until mixed through without lumps. Pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Top cornbread with hot pepper jelly.

To assemble each serving, place a slice of the cornbread with jelly atop a mound of the pea mixture and top with the cold salted tomatoes. Or, if you prefer, pour the beans and diced tomatoes on top of the cornbread.

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