• Pressure cooker: Until recently, the only thing I ever knew about them was that they could explode and make a huge mess. It wasn’t until a few years ago, at the end of my fourth decade, that I decided to purchase a pressure cooker. I decided on a Kuhn-Rikon model, purchased from Pleasant Hill Grain, and I’m really glad I did. It’s a workhorse in my kitchen. And it has never exploded!

    The soup we had for tonights’ dinner took longer to prep than it did to cook. Once I had everything cut and ready to go into the pressure cooker, it took about 15 minutes to cook. Done. And that was WITHOUT soaking the beans.

    We all keep hearing it over and over – dark, leafy greens. Eat them. Lots of them. And so, while spinach is a regular feature on our menu, I’ve been challenging myself to learn how to prepare and eat the greens that I’m least familiar with. One of my new favorites is collard greens. The research clearly proves that collards are a superstar when it comes to the nutrient punch they offer. My eyes glazed over when I went to this page – but in scanning it, I could tell that we’re doing a good thing by eating collards.

    Black-eyed peas – another unfamiliar ingredient. For reasons unknown to me, they just never appealed to me. However, after tasting them at a friend’s house, I realized the error of my ways. They are soft and creamy and mild and now I can’t get enough of them.

    So for dinner tonight, I decided to make a soup that featured black-eyed peas and collard greens. After exploring a number of my own cookbooks as well as doing some online research, I devised my own recipe. It definitely is a conglomeration of a number of different recipes, one of them coming from one of my favorite blogs, Fatfree Vegan Kitchen, which I subscribe to and read regularly. I used much the same ingredients as Susan’s recipe for her Spicy Collard and Black-eyed Pea Soup, except that I used less water. I also added liquid smoke, I added Hot & Spicy Tempeh Sausage Links, and I also made some changes to the cooking instructions.

    The soup stands on its’ own without adding the Hot & Spicy Tempeh Sausage Links (see recipe below). But I would highly recommend that you take a page out of my book and add the links. It elevates the soup to a whole new level that is worth the extra effort. And the really excellent thing is that you’ll probably have a lot of the sausage links leftover. They freeze beautifully and defrost in a snap in the microwave. And though they require a few distinct steps, they’re really pretty easy to make.

    Cajun Black-eyed Pea Soup with Collard Green Ribbons

    1 tbsp. canola oil
    2 medium onions, chopped
    2 ribs celery, diced
    1 cup green bell pepper, diced
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1 lb chopped collard greens, tough stems removed* (see note for preparation tips)
    2 cups dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
    4 cups water
    1 16-ounce can Muir-Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes (or use regular diced tomatoes)
    2 tbsp tomato paste
    ½ tsp liquid smoke
    1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper
    1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
    2 tsp salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    Spicy Tempeh Sausage Links, sliced (see recipe below)

    Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in a large pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the celery, green pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 3 more minutes.

    Add the prepared collard greens and enough water to just cover the bottom. Put the lid on the pressure cooker, but DON’T tighten it as you’re not ready to pressure cook them yet. Over a medium-low heat, lightly steam the collards. This will only take a few minutes. Once they’ve wilted and reduced in size, add the remaining ingredients.

    Seal the cooker and after it reaches high pressure, cook for 10 minutes, using a quick-release method to reduce the pressure.

    If the black-eyed peas aren’t finished cooking, return the pressure cooker to the stovetop and bring the pot to high pressure again, giving it another 3 – 5 minutes. Once again, use a quick-release method to reduce the pressure.

    Spoon the soup into soup bowls, adding one sliced Spicy Tempeh Sausage Link to each bowl. Serve with hot biscuits or cornbread.

    *To prep the collard green ribbons: Rinse each leaf, removing any blemished parts. To remove the large tough middle rib of each leaf, hold the stem with your right hand while you run your hand down the stem with your left hand, separating the leaf from the stem. After practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Stack the prepped leaves one on top of the other and roll them tightly from the longest side; they will look like a very long green cigar. Slice across the roll, making diagonal cuts about 1 inch apart (or less, depending on how wide you want the collard ribbons to be).

    Spicy Tempeh Sausage Links
    Adapted from The Vegan Chef

    I made three changes to the ingredients in The Vegan Chef’s original recipe, in addition to making some changes to the recipe instructions. She originally called for ground fennel, but it is very spicy, so I prefer to use fennel seeds. If you are ok with the spiciness, by all means, use the ground fennel instead of the fennel seeds. I also used chickpea flour (since it is gluten-free) instead of whole wheat flour. And finally, I used wheat-free tamari instead of regular tamari. You could also use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, as suggested in the original recipe.

    One 8 oz. package tempeh, cut into cubes
    1 tsp dried basil
    1 tsp dried oregano
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp onion powder
    1 tsp fennel seeds (or ground fennel for spicier flavor)
    ½ tsp dried thyme
    ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    ¼ tsp black pepper
    ½ cup chickpea flour (or all purpose gluten free flour)
    ½ cup wheat-free tamari
    ¼ cup olive oil
    canola oil for sauteing

    Steam the tempeh cubes for 15 minutes. Cool.

    Place cooled tempeh cubes in food processor and mix. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the canola oil) and blend thoroughly.

    Pour the mixture onto a piece of waxed paper and begin to form it into a flat log. The mixture will be a little gummy – wet your hands if necessary to help keep the mixture from sticking to your hands. In order to help the process, fold the long end of the waxed paper over the shape and begin coaxing it into as much of a log shape as you can. Finally, wrap the rest of the waxed paper around the shape, securing it by tucking the ends of the waxed paper underneath the tempeh log. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour. Overnight would be ideal.

    Remove from the refrigerator and unwrap the tempeh log. With a serrated knife, cut the log into slices. I was able to get 12 slices or links.

    Lightly grease a skillet with some canola oil. Cook the tempeh sausages until crisp, about 5 – 7 minutes per side. Add more oil to the pan as needed.

    These freeze beautifully. You can defrost them in the microwave.

    What kind of soup are you cooking these days?

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