Spicy Rice Bake with Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens and Sweet Potato

This article was originally written by Stewart Rose, Vice President of Vegetarians of Washington, for The Seattle Press.

3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes From an American Zen Buddhist Monastery
by Seppo Ed Farrey with Myochi Nancy O'Hara
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company

Author, chef, and Zen Buddhist priest Seppo Ed Farrey recommends you practice mindfulness when cooking in his intriguing cookbook, "3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery". Who would have ever thought that being conscious of where the food came from, how it was grown and the very act of cooking it would turn out to be a Zen practice and create such delicious food at the same time?

Adding to the adventure are the thought provoking samples from life and training in a monastery located in a remote and secluded section of the Catskill Mountains. In the end, one comes away with a feeling as well as a taste.

Seppo gained valuable experience as the tenzo or head chef in the monastery. Both the vital energy and the peacefulness of the monastery comes across in each of the carefully selected and developed recipes. The recipes are somewhat exotic and yet the food tastes surprisingly satisfying and just slightly familiar. The monastery may be out of the reach of most of us these but these recipes are not. Using ingredients freely available in the Puget Sound area Seppo shows us how to make each meal a delight with clear instructions and portions adjusted for small groups just in case you don't have a whole monastery to cook for. This unusual and slightly mystical book contains recipes from all the major cuisines.

Here is one of my favorites: Spicy Rice Bake with Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens and Sweet Potato. This one dish meal has a southern flair and the rich consistency of jambalaya.

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6-8 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½ one half inch dice
  • 6 large collard green leaves, large ribs removed, leaves torn in half lengthwise and cut into ½ half inch strips
  • 1½ cups short grain brown rice, rinsed well and drained
  • 1 cup black eyed peas, sorted, rinsed well and drained
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup tamari
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the the garlic and continue to saute until the onion is almost translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Stir in the sweet potato and collard greens and saute, stirring occasionally, until the collard greens are bright green (don't let them turn dark green) and wilted, about 5 minutes.
  3. Place the rice and black eyed peas in a 9X13 inch baking dish. Add the sweet potato mixture and cayenne pepper and mix well. Pour 6 cups of boiling water, the tamari, the balsamic vinegar into the baking dish and mix carefully. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 11/2 one and one half hours, or until the rice and black eyed peas are tender. Stir gently and serve hot.

Recently hosted at the monthly dining event of the Vegetarians of Washington, Seppo explained how to use the mindful method of cooking. I don't know if we were able to hear the sound of one hand clapping but I distinctly heard the sounds of over one hundred mouths watering.