Collards and black eyed peas in spicy smoky broth

Collards and black-eyed peas

Collards and black-eyed peas

I’ve been talking so much, this week, here on The Ordinary’s virtual pages. I feel like I’ve had thoughts spilling out of my head messily all over this little blank box. So today we’ll have a bit of quiet, and we’ll return to a video project I’ve been working at off and on for years. Mostly off, I have to admit, but it’s something I want to get back to, and why not now? Why not here? I’ve mentioned the whole idea before, here at The Ordinary, so I’ll briefly plagiarize myself now. I’m a huge fan of stillness in films, and quiet moments. Whether they last the whole film long, or they form a small pocket in a louder busier film. A few years ago I submitted a series of short videos to an online gallery run by the remarkable Peter Ferko, a New York artist. The series was called Now:Here:This, and it involved art made in a moment (or a few moments) by people all over the world at roughly the same space in time. I started making short, static videos. I gave myself some rules…they had to last about a minute. I couldn’t change the frame. The sound would be whatever naturally occurred for that minute. I focused on leaves, or water, or shadows, even dirty dishes in the sink. The sound generally involved my children yelling for me and trying to get my attention, which was an idea that I liked a lot. It captured my life at the time (and to this day.) I became very taken with making the videos – there was nothing brilliant about them, but I liked the way that shooting them made me think about how long a minute lasts, how hard it is to be quiet and still, how my life sounded, how pretty small things could be. We like to have a story, so any small change in the action or the sound becomes significant. The idea wasn’t inspired by Yasujiro Ozu, it’s something I’d started long before I saw my first Ozu film, but it’s reminiscent of a technique that he uses in his beautiful still “pillow shots” between scenes. They’re shots down hallways, of empty rooms, along an alleyway. They’re not entirely static – the camera is still, but there’s movement of light, or of people walking by, clocks ticking, curtains blowing. You sense that the story is playing itself out somewhere nearby. The shots are so cool, so quiet but not silent. I find them incredibly compelling. And then Ozu went and stole the idea from me! I’d like to stop and look at my house, for moments at a time, from down a corridor, when nothing is happening. Of course it wouldn’t be quiet and clean and cool, like in Ozu’s films. It would be a warm messy muddle.

Yesterday morning, as I’ve already told you, we had a thunderstorm. The weather had been mixed and moody for days, in the way that you feel inside your head. I had a lot to do, but I took a moment to sit on the couch with Clio, and listen to the rain, and think about ichneumon wasps, as I’ve also already told you.

You can hear the rain and the thunder. You can hear the cars go by, which has its own sort of suspenseful build-up of sound. You can catch a glimpse of the cool wet world outside of my curtain. You see the legos and CDs that need putting away. And you can see me breathing, because I was holding the camera on my belly, which is an idea that I like…it’s marking time, and it makes the film feel alive. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because it’s totally cheating to tell you anything about it, it’s against all the rules.

These smoky spicy sweet collards and black-eyed peas in a very brothy sauce went with the smoky cheesy bread I shared yesterday, much in the same way that this video goes with everything I wrote yesterday. They’re simultaneous. We ate them at the same time! I made the black-eyed peas from dried, which was fun. I cooked the peas and the collards at the same time, so that the cooking water becomes the broth for the dish. The smokiness comes from black cardamom, which is such an odd looking thing, with such a mysteriously delicious flavor. We also have pepper flakes and ginger for zing and pomegranate molasses for sweet tartness, Tamari for the umami, and a bit of brown sugar for molasses-y sweetness. A nice warm meal for a chilly rainy spring day!

Here’s Fats Dominoes completely lovely song It Keeps Rainin’

1 cup dried black eyed peas
2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t oregano
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods
1 t sage
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger
1 T tomato paste
2 t pomegranate molasses
1 t tamari
1 T brown sugar
3 cups packed cleaned, finely chopped collards
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

3 or 4 cups vegetable broth or water

1 T butter
salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Put the black eyed peas in a pot with enough water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and leave to soak for at least an hour. Drain.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, cook and stir for about a minute, then add the garlic and all the spices. Cook and stir and immediately add the tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, tamari and brown sugar. Cook and stir till you have a syrupy paste. Add the soaked beans. Stir to coat. Add the collards and enough water or broth (or a combination) to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till the peas and collars are nice and soft, but still with a little texture. Add the tomatoes, and cook till they’re softened. Stir in the butter, season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and serve.

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One thought on “Collards and black eyed peas in spicy smoky broth

  1. Claire: When I was at UCLA film school there was a one minute film project. A friend of mine did one that I thought was pure genius. You’ve probably seen those small unfired clay animals with a rough texture; you soak them in water then cover them with the supplied seeds and voila, you have a green wooly sheep. He took that idea and wet the entire living room in his [rented] apartment, the walls, the doors, the ceiling, the settee, everything! Then using a sticky sugary solution he applied about a pound of grass seeds. He fastened a Bolex with a timer set to 1 frame a minute high up in the corner looking down at the entire room. In the processed film you see everything starting to wriggle and then it becomes apparent what’s happening, the entire room emerges covered in grass. He called his film ‘The Living Room,’
    My contribution to that project was one minute of extreme close up photography of a snail going over the edge of a Gillette razor blade, the tension was extreme, you held your breath for a minute. I was amazed to hear a line by Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now where he describes a snail on a razor blade, Coppola was also a student at UCLA then and I suspect that he saw my film in the year end presentations and it stuck with him, I’d love to meet him again and ask him about that detail.

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