When I was a young girl, we used to shop in a grocery store whose produce section was run by a loud and generous Greek woman named Carla. She always had a smile, story and a treat for her special customers – and with Carla, everyone was special. One day she was telling us about this dish that her family made and it sounded delicious and easy to make. There never was a recipe – just Carla’s story – but ever since then I have been making this dish – first with my mother and now on my own. If it has a name, I don’t know it, but what I do know is that it is delicious and over the years I have never tired of making it. Now Frances makes it too.
I make mine with country pork ribs because that was how Carla told me the recipe, but I think it could be equally delicious with beef short ribs. You would simply need to adjust your cooking time to be somewhat longer for the beef, which also means you would add your black-eyed peas and spinach later. Try it that way and let me know how it works out. For now, here is my version of Carla’s family recipe.
Spinach and Black-Eyed Peas with Country Ribs
Yields: 4 servings
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 – 28 ounce can or 1 large box of crushed Marzano tomatoes with their liquid
4 meaty country ribs
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2 teaspoons finely chopped or crushed garlic
1/3 cup red wine (choose anything you would enjoy also drinking that deals well with tomato)
12 ounces fresh black-eyed peas (See Note)
16 ounces of frozen chopped spinach or its equivalent fresh
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 -2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano or 1.5 teaspoons good quality dried Greek oregano
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
NOTE: I have made this dish with fresh, canned and frozen black-eyed peas and it has always turned out delicious. If you use canned peas, be sure to drain and rinse the peas. I use two cans around 15 ounces each. If I can’t find frozen or fresh or canned black-eyed peas, I have also used Crowder beans. And while the dish called for spinach, I believe it would also be tasty (different) with kale or even collard greens. Don’t be afraid to try what is freshest or most easily available.
- Using a large, deep pan with a lid or a Dutch oven, saute the onion in the EVOO until just beginning to get translucent – about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and stirring, gently, saute this for another 3 minutes. I like to salt and pepper in layers. I don’t use any more this way, but I know that my onions are flavored and then my ribs etc.
- Add the ribs by pushing the onion and garlic towards the side of the pan and brown them quickly, turning once. This will only take a few minutes. You should have enough oil in the pan, but if you feel the need to add a smidgen more, that’s okay too. If your pan is hot, the ribs shouldn’t really stick.
- Add your tomatoes, bay leaves and red wine. If you are using dried herbs, add them now. Bring to a boil, cover and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add your beans, spinach, fresh oregano, salt and pepper and cook for 15 -20 minutes more. Yup, that’s it! And when you eat this dish, raise a glass to Carla, wherever she may be.
Eat with a lovely crusty bread (something with sesames would be great) and salad and serve the remainder of the red wine. This can be made ahead and gently reheated.