Black Eyed Pea Stew

¼ pound (4 or 5 pieces) bacon, chopped into rough squares (optional) 2 stalks celery, chopped 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped 2 small to medium white onions, chopped 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed 1 pound uncooked Rancho Gordo Black Eyed Peas, cleaned and rinsed 1 bay leaf Salt and freshly ground pepper 2 tablespoons tomato paste ½ cup whole canned tomatoes with some juice, roughly chopped

Ingredients

If using bacon: In a soup pot, gently cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s just done, about 10 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon pieces and let them rest on a paper towel.

In the remaining bacon fat (or in olive oil if you didn't use bacon), saute the celery, onion, carrot, and garlic over medium heat until soft, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

 When the vegetables are soft, add the Black Eyed Peas and enough water to cover the peas by about an inch.

Stir, add the bay leaf, and then raise the heat to high and bring the contents to a rapid boil. Keep boiling, partially covered, for 15 minutes. 

 Add 1 tablespoon salt and adjust the water so that the peas are again covered by about an inch. Reduce to a gentle simmer until the peas are soft, about 35 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir and then gently heat through over medium heat, about 15 minutes.