Isa Chandra Moskowitz projects such a warm, nonjudgmental demeanor in Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week (Little, Brown) that it seems she could charm even the most committed carnivore. How can you not love cookbook author who discloses a fondness for microwave burritos and confesses that when she first began preparing meat-free meals, “Tofu scared the hell out of me”?
So far, the two recipes I’ve tried from her book live up to the bold claims of its subtitle: the first, Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl, made for a satisfying autumnal supper for two (with leftovers). For the second—Black-Eye Pea & Collard Tacos, documented here—my husband and I invited friends to join us, with one taco apiece serving as appetizer to a vegetarian, though not vegan, main.
I hewed pretty closely to the taco recipe, a forgiving one that did not demand absolute precision or great technical skill. Collard greens came from our community garden plot (“Does this look like a pound to you?” “Sure, why not?”); other items were either pantry staples or easily procurable from the local grocery. The exception: ripe avocados can be difficult to source at the last minute. We live in a neighborhood plentiful with Mexican bodegas where ready-to-use avocados may be had for a price, but if you don’t, you may want to plan ahead.
A bit of improvisation helped things along. Surprised to find our fridge lacking in Moskowitz’s preferred hot sauce, Frank’s, I grabbed the Goya Salsa Picante, a blend of Louisiana-hot and Tabasco peppers, to season the black-eyed peas. And for mashing them, the bottom of a pint glass did the trick. Rather than garnish with prepared pumpkin seeds, I bought an acorn squash, hacked it in half, and toasted its scooped-out innards. (Roasted squash halves, meanwhile, gave our guests something to snack on while I took my time with the multi-step recipe.)
Once all components were ready, we layered them (the thick, spicy bean mash; the garlicky, you-won’t-miss-the-ham-hocks collards, and the apple-avocado salsa, with its bright green crunch) into store-bought tortillas that I’d warmed, two at a time, on the back of a cookie sheet. No single flavor or texture dominated; in fact, all played quite nicely together, a lesson that everyone, from vegans to pescetarians to omnivores, could take to heart.
Black-eyed Pea & Collard Tacos with Apple-Avocado Salsa
Makes 6 tacos
Total time: 30 mins
Active time: 30 mins
For the black-eyed peas:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (3 cups)
1 cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce (like Frank’s RedHot)
For the collards:
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound collard greens, stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
¼ teaspoon salt
For the apple-avocado salsa:
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
½ cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
Shelled pumpkin seeds (optional)
Louisiana-style hot sauce has a particular flavor and a low to moderate heat level that I think is perfect for this recipe. If you want to play around with other hot sauces, you can, of course, but start slowly and work up. For instance, sriracha is much hotter than Frank’s.
Prepare the black-eyed peas:
Preheat a 2-quart pot over medium heat and add the oil. Sauté the onion in the oil for 3 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, and salt. Sauté for another minute or so. Add splashes of water if it appears dry.
Add the black-eyed peas and mash with a fork or a mini potato masher (or avocado masher). You want a little texture, so don’t mash it to a purée. Add the broth and hot sauce and mix well. Cook for 5 more minutes or so – the beans should be thick and velvety. Taste for salt and hot sauce. Keep covered until ready to use.
Prepare the collards:
Preheat a large pan over medium heat and add the oil. Sauté the garlic in the oil for only about 15 seconds. Have the other ingredients at the ready so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the collards, broth, and salt, and toss to incorporate the garlic. Cover the pan and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid and continue to cook until the collards are tender and most of the liquid has cooked away. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.
Prepare the salsa:
Simply mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, drizzling the lemon juice on the end. Keep covered and chilled until ready to serve.
Lightly toast the tortillas in a dry pan if desired, or microwave briefly (15 seconds or so) just to warm through. Layer the tortillas with the black-eyed peas, greens, and apple salsa. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and serve.