One of the many gifts of this year was in friendships, and I've learned to cook (you might have noticed) for friends with special diets, especially gluten-free and dairy-free regimens.
They say you're supposed to eat hoppin john for good luck in the new year. As far as I can tell, that's just a spoonful of black-eyed peas. I don't know anyone who does that. Nothing against black-eyed peas. I'm from the South, after all, and that's a legit vegetable. (I also love pink-eyed or pink lady peas, if you can find those in your supermarket.)
What's better, and what can be modified to suit almost any diet, is black-eyed pea cakes. They are hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian entree and flexible enough to modify for appetizers. I've done both. This recipe is as friendly as they come-- Try substituting ingredients you love. What you are looking for is a semi-chunky, slightly wet patty before you fry. Don't overprocess or it will be pasty.
This recipe grew out of modifications to suit the diet of a gluten-intolerant friend with an infant with even more rigorous restrictions. It's vegetarian and uses garbanzo bean flour instead of all-purpose flour. You can find garbanzo bean flour (made from chick peas) in most grocery stores now, if you poke around, or at Whole Foods and speciality stores. It has a flavor and texture that work well in this recipe and doesn't get gummy the way regular flour might.
Have a glass of champagne and toast to your best in 2013. I'm so excited to cook for you next year. The recipe for black-eyed pea cakes follows.