Archive for Eat Your Vegetables

Bean Cuisine part 2: Black-Eyed Pea Spring Rolls

After complaining last week about the unreliable recipes in Vegetarian Times, I actually went back to the magazine for another recipe: Black-eyed pea spring rolls. I guess I’m on a bean roll since participating in last week’s bean-themed Is My Blog Burning. The idea of bean filling sounded really good, and I’d be using up tons of leftovers. I had year-old frozen peas (which was in one chunk, studded with ice crystals), six-month-old frozen dumpling skins, an x-month old (I can’t remember the exact age) carrot, and of course lots of dried black-eyed peas.

Since I didn’t want to do any deep-frying, I make black-eyed pea dumplings instead.

The filling was basically mashed beans, carrots, peas and some spices. It was really tasty on its own. I would have been happy eating it as is.

I put a rounded teaspoon in each skin.

I dipped my index finger in water and lined the outer centimeter of the skin with the liquid. Then I folded the skin in half, put in a crease…

…and finished creasing till everything was shut. It’s important to pinch the edges again and make sure there are no holes, or else the dumpling will explode during cooking.

The finished platter. Actually, I ran out of skins and still had half the filling left.

I dropped a couple dumplings in boiling water and cooked till they floated to the top (it was almost instantaneous, since these were fresh).

The interior was a bit dry, since the recipe said to pre-cook the filling until “it dries.” If any of you make this recipe, I recommend cooking the filling until it resembles mashed potatoes. The filling should definitely be creamy, not dry like mine.

While the filling was delicious, it was actually too strong for the delicately flavored dumpling skin. It would probably be good in an egg roll, since the skin is heartier.

The rest of my uncooked dumplings were individually frozen (so they wouldn’t stick together), then bagged for a quick weekday meal. Whenever I come home from work, sticking something in the microwave is all I have energy for. Boiling a pot of water shouldn’t be much more difficult than punching numbers on a microwave keypad.

The recipe:

Black-Eyed Pea Spring Rolls
adapted from Vegetarian Times, Feb. 2005

Photo: Vegetarian Times

Serves 8
Note to vegans: Most egg roll wrappers are made with cornstarch, flour and water, but some contain eggs. Check labels.

1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 Tbs. canola oil plus about 4 cups for deep-frying
1/2 cup minced onion
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced (about 1 Tbs.) (Sriracha hot sauce also works)
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained and mashed
1 cup frozen green peas
Salt to taste
1 Tbs. garam masala or curry powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
3 Tbs. lemon juice (Important: this brightens up the flavors)
1/2 tsp. cayenne, or to taste
16 egg roll wrappers
1 Tbs. cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbs. water

  1. If using dried beans, note that 1 cup dried beans=3 1/2 cups cooked. Sort through the peas and pick out tiny stones and stray seeds. This is best done by spreading them on a table with a pot in your lap and pulling the good peas into the pot. To soak dried black-eyed peas, rinse them, and place them in a pot. Add enough water to cover them plus at least 4 inches more. Add 1/4 tsp. baking soda to the water, and stir. (This pulls out the sugars that cause gas in the intestines.) Let them sit overnight. Rinse thoroughly. The beans will cook perfectly in fewer than 90 minutes. Add salt after cooking.
  2. Put carrots in 3 cups boiling water, and cook about 15 minutes, or until very tender. Or, steam for about 15 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
  3. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and serrano chiles, and saute about 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
  4. Add mashed black-eyed peas, and cook mixture about 10 minutes, or until the consistency is like mashed potatoes. Add water if necessary. Add green peas, carrots, salt, garam masala, coriander, lemon juice and cayenne. Mix, and set aside.
  5. Place egg roll wrapper on counter with one corner pointing toward you. Shape 1/4 cup mixture into 3-inch-long log, and place it on wrapper, parallel to edge of counter and far enough above closest corner to be within edges of wrapper. Fold corner over filling, fold sides over tightly and roll tightly to far corner. Moisten corner with cornstarch mixture to help keep roll closed. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Set aside, or cook immediately.
  6. Heat 2 inches oil in skillet over medium heat. Fry 3 or 4 rolls at a time about 5 minutes, until crisp and golden. Keep hot in 250F oven. Serve immediately.


Some ideas for leftover filling:

  • Eat it just as it is. It’s like hearty mashed potatoes.
  • Use as a sandwich or pita filling.
  • Make patties: Shape the filling. Dip it in flour(seasoned with salt and pepper) and shake off the excess. Dip it in beaten egg and let the excess drip off. It’s important to get rid of the excess so the crust sticks. Dip the patty in breadcrumbs (preferably panko, seasoned with salt and pepper). Then pan fry. (Fill a pan with 1/2″ oil for a classic crispy crust. Or barely coat the pan with oil if you’re eating light.) To get a good crust, don’t touch the patties for the first couple of minutes. This technique also works really well for polenta (what I had when I boiled down Vegetarian Times‘ goopy corn mush). Panko-crusted polenta is wonderfully crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Actually, I might try this method for Chinese turnip cakes, savory rice cakes (nien gow), sweet red bean rice cakes, or mochi.

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Is My Blog Burning: Black-Eyed Pea Cake

Photo: Vegetarian Times-Feb. 2005

For my first post, I’ve decided to participate in Is My Blog Burning?, a designated day where bloggers cook with a common ingredient or method. This time, the theme is beans. I think a dessert can be made from virtually any ingredient, so why not try a bean cake?

When I first saw the Black-Eyed Bean Cake recipe in the Feb. 2005 issue of Vegetarian Times, I wondered if I could substitute Asian red beans (azukis) for the black-eyes and red dates for the apricot puree to make a Chinese-ified cake. Before getting too adventurous though, I tested the original recipe to see if it was any good.

I had doubts about this recipe because a couple days earlier, I made the Fungi (cornmeal mush) from the same issue. I expected it to be a mixture between cornbread and oatmeal, but instead I got tasteless, watery goop. I’ll usually eat anything, but I seriously considered throwing the Fungi out. After boiling it on the stove for another 40 minutes (the recipe said I’d only need to boil it for two min.), the mixture reduced to one-third its volume and was quite good. It got nice and firm, like polenta.

Anyway, on to the recipe!

Black-Eyed Susan Cake
adapted from Vegetarian Times, Feb. 2005

Serves 12

2 cups dried apricots
2 cups cooked, drained and rinsed black-eyed peas
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup golden or regular raisins
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

1/3 of 8-oz. pkg. fat-free cream cheese
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional Decoration
12 chocolate drops or stars
32 dried apricots

  1. If using dried beans, measure out a little more than 1/2 a cup. (1 cup dried=3 1/2 cups cooked, so if you do some algebra, you’ll actually need .57 cups). Sort through the peas and pick out tiny stones and stray seeds. This is best done by spreading them on a table with a pot in your lap and pulling the good peas into the pot. To soak dried black-eyed peas, rinse them, and place them in a pot. Add enough water to cover them plus at least 4 inches more. Add 1/4 tsp. baking soda to the water, and stir. (This pulls out the sugars that cause gas in the intestines.) Let them sit overnight. Rinse thoroughly. The beans will cook perfectly in fewer than 90 minutes. Add salt after cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F (350F if using glass or dark-colored pans). Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans, or grease and line pans with circles of parchment.
  3. To make Cake: Cook apricots in 2 cups water, about 12 minutes, until very soft. Measure out 1 cup apricots and liquid, and set aside. Put remaining apricots and liquid in blender, and puree. Add peas, and puree.
  4. Put oil, brown sugar and eggs in mixing bowl; beat on high 3 minutes. Mixture will look creamy. Whisk flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and baking powder in separate bowl. Mix in raisin and pecans, if using. (Hint: tossing nuts, fruit, or chocolate chips with flour keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.)
  5. Pour egg mixture over puree, and fold together. Gently fold in flour mixture. Pour into prepared cake pans.
  6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire rack. Ooh, nice and crusty! While this cake was baking, the entire kitchen smelled like gingerbread.
  7. To make Frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until creamy. Beat in remaining ingredients. Frosting should be soft; it will firm upon sitting.
  8. Place one cake layer on plate, and spread reserved apricots evenly over it. Top with second layer. Spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.
  9. To decorate, cut apricots into slices. Place chocolate drop on cake, and arrange 8 apricot “petals” around it (skin side up). Repeat until cake is covered.


I didn’t make the filling or the frosting…Growing up, my mom always complained that frosting was too sweet. So out of habit, I made my cake plain.

My handblender didn’t puree the apricot-bean mixture all the way, so you can see a chunk of apricot in the front and a white stripe of beans on the right.

The verdict: the texture was very good. The cake was moist and not dense (as is the problem with whole-wheat baked goods). I could not tell it was low-fat. Aside from the couple streaks, you can’t tell there’s beans in it either. This cake would be a good joke to play on friends. Imagine their faces when you tell them the secret ingredient!


I was unimpressed with the flavor on the first day, but on the second day, the flavors intensified. The cake got even more moist, but it wasn’t soggy or damp. My only complaint is that it’s a bit sweet, and I can’t really taste the spices. The cake is kind of like spice cake without the spices or carrot cake with extra brown sugar and no carrots.

Maybe to spice up the flavor, I’ll spread some apple butter (recipe featured at 101 Cookbooks) on the cake.

2nd EDIT:

On further investigation, I found out that I added too much sweetener. Brown sugar is simply white sugar plus molasses. I made my own brown sugar for this cake. According to the Grandma’s molasses package, 1 c brown sugar = 1 c white sugar + 1/2 c molasses. Or, it’s 2 parts white sugar, 1 part molasses. In previous experience, I found this ratio to be overkill, so I used 4 parts white sugar to 1 part molasses. On the Grandma’s molasses site though, it recommends 9 parts white sugar to 1 part molasses. Also, Baking 911 recommends 1-2 tbsp molasses for 1 cup of white sugar (or, 8-16 parts white sugar to 1 part molasses). Bottom line: I used waaaay too much molasses.

Partly because of my traumatic experience with the cornmeal mush, I still have qualms with Vegetarian Times recipes. Case in point: this recipe doesn’t tell you how much salt to add to the beans. I put a pinch. Evidently I needed more to bring out the spice flavors. Also, I seriously doubt 375F is a good temperature for the cake. Since I had an 8×8 glass pan (I halved the recipe), which conducts heat better than aluminum, I lowered the temperature to 350F. The edges browned very quickly, and I baked at 325F for the last five minutes.

So, this is a good cake, but it’s not to die for. I like the wholesome ingredients though. If you ever want to eat cake for breakfast, you can “fool” yourself by making healthy muffins with this recipe.

Maybe I’ll try the Chinese variation, but not anytime soon. My desk is exploding with “to try” recipes, and they’re from trusted sources.

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