Nothing is more comforting than hot soup on a cold day. Given that I grew up in Los Angeles, cold days were a rarity but that never stopped my mom from making a big pot of hot soup whenever she could. Sometimes that pot was full of a brothy, Chinese herbal soup, sometimes the pot was filled with a gumbo and more often than not, it was a quickly thrown together soup of broth and vegetables. Whatever the soup, it was always good. As such, soup remains as one of my favorite foods today, especially since I now live in a country that is cold 9 months out of the year. They're filling, nutritious, hydrating, hot, and soul-renewing.
One of my favorite soups growing up was my mom's version of black eyed pea soup. She would take a big piece of ham and boil the flavor out of it, making it into a rich, smoky, flavorful broth. She also added several cloves of garlic and let them boil down to a sweet, soft ghost of a garlic clove. To this salty, garlicky broth she added black eyed peas and sheets of dried, thinned tofu that we called "foo juk." This soup was the best ever. EVER. My favorite way to eat it was over rice.
This makes me homesick just thinking about it. So instead of complaining ad nauseum to my boyfriend about being far from home, being cold, and hating the ice, I decided to make soup. I made my own ham stock and added a couple of cloves of garlic and black eyed peas. I didn't have the foo juk so I used half a head of cabbage. Boiled cabbage is tender and sweet and it suited the salty broth perfectly. I'm still homesick and I still miss my mom but at least now, I'm a little warmer, a little fuller, and just a little less inclined to yell at my boyfriend.
Ham and Black-eyed Pea Soup
4 cups of ham stock
4 cups of water
3 cloves of garlic, whole with skin removed
3/4 c. black eyed peas, rinsed
1/2 head of cabbage, cut into large chunks
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
salt to taste
Bring the ham stock, water, pepper, and garlic to a boil and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and simmer for an addition 10 minutes. Add the black eyed peas and simmer for 35 minutes or until the peas are tender. Salt to taste.
Note: You can always put the cabbage in earlier or later, depending on how soft you like your cabbage. My mother, who hates vegetables cooked to death, is probably shuddering at the idea of boiling cabbage for 45 minutes but I love the wilted and tender cabbage. However, it is important to let the garlic simmer for quite some time; the garlic is too pungent when undercooked. Be mindful that overcooking the black eyed peas makes them disappear leaving beind a bunch of transluscent skins.