Black-Eyed Peas with Smoked Tofu

MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

TIME: About 21/2 hours, largely unattended

In all good conscience I can’t call this hoppin John, the classic southern bean and rice dish, because it doesn’t have a ham hock. And since I’m not a fan of faux meats, I’m not going to recommend them for this or any vegetarian dish.

On the other hand, smoked tofu doesn’t pretend to be meat. Its slightly dense, chewy texture and strong smoky flavor is unique and enjoyable, especially cooked whole, as it is here, which keeps it moist.

Because hoppin John is traditionally served with stewed greens for good luck on New Years Day, I suggest eating this with Boiled or Steamed Greens or even Sea Slaw. A wedge of Corn Bread and you’re set. Even with all that, this is an easy meal to get on the table.

Other beans you can use: cowpeas or pigeon peas.

11/2 cups dried black-eyed peas, washed, picked over, and soaked if you like

2 quarts vegetable stock or water

1 brick (about 14 ounces) smoked tofu

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons minced garlic

11/2 cups long-grain white rice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tabasco sauce to taste (optional)

Put the peas, stock, tofu, onions, and garlic in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles steadily but not violently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender but not mushy, 1 to 2 hours. (The beans may be made ahead to this point, cooled, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

When the beans are ready, make sure you have about 3 cups of liquid; if not, add more or spoon some out to make 3 cups. Stir in the rice, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes or so.

Remove the lid; if any water remains, turn the heat to high for a minute or two to boil it off. Remove the tofu, cut it into cubes, and return it to the pot. Use a fork to gently fluff the rice, beans, and tofu. Add a dash or two of Tabasco if you like, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Put the lid back on and let the dish rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 15 before serving.

Variations

One-Pot Bean Gumbo. More like a casserole than a soup, with the rice and beans all together: When you add the rice in Step 2, add 11/2 cups chopped tomato (canned is fine; don’t bother to drain) and 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen okra. When you fluff the rice and beans in Step 3, stir in 1/2 cup minced red bell pepper with the Tabasco if you like.

Black-Eyed Peas with Smoked Tofu and Mushrooms. Extra earthiness and chew: While the beans are cooking, make 1 recipe Sauted Mushrooms. When you fluff the rice and beans in Step 3, stir in the mushrooms, along with 1/2 cup chopped parsley if you like.

Black-Eyed Peas with Sliced Smoked Tofu. Here the tofu shares the plate with the beans and rice (you can use more of it if you like): In Step 3, instead of cubing the tofu and adding it back to the pot when you fluff the rice, remove it, fluff the rice and peas without it, and keep the tofu bricks warm. When you’re ready to serve, thinly slice the tofu and serve it alongside the peas and rice.