In the end, I had about 15 minutes in the middle of a busy evening to find my own solution to the challenge. I was tempted to throw in some meat, but I decided to limit myself closely to these ingredients, with the addition of a few spices and some fresh thyme from a friend's garden. I used whole cumin here as an added texture, toasting the seeds in oil and leaving them crunchy in the soup. Frying the tomato paste with the oil and garlic takes the edge off its often metallic taste - a tip I picked up from one of Laurie Colwin's books.
I was rather surprised, in the end: this little experiment gave me a rich, creamy soup full of soft, tiny beans, with the toasty crunch of cumin and bright taste of thyme - and in less than 10 minutes!
Also, this is of course vegetarian, and could easily be vegan, if the sour cream is excluded or a non-dairy substitution is made.
Creamy Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Cumin and Thyme
1 teaspoon whole cumin
Red pepper flakes (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare all the ingredients and have them ready by the stove; this soup comes together fast. Coat the bottom of a small saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium until it is quite hot. Add the cumin and the red pepper, if using, and stir for about 30 seconds or until the cumin smells fragrant. Add the garlic and cook until golden, turning down the heat if it begins to brown. Add the tomato paste and fry everything together until well-mixed. Add the thyme and cook just until wilted, then add the black-eyed peas and fry all together for about 2 minutes.
Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about five minutes. Stir in the sour cream and let it warm over low heat. Don't let the soup boil again. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then serve immediately.
Re-edited from post originally published on January 23, 2007