In a medium saucepan, add black-eyed peas, 4 cups water and bay leaf. Bring to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain; discard bay leaf.
Meanwhile, mist a large saucepan with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Add jalapeños and yellow onion and sauté, stirring often, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 45 seconds. Stir in rice, ¼ tsp salt, thyme and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a plate, spread cornmeal, paprika, celery seed (if using), black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne and remaining ¼ tsp salt. Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium. Dredge catfish in cornmeal mixture, turning to coat both sides. Mist each side of catfish with cooking spray, add to skillet and cook for 4 minutes. (TIP:If necessary, work in batches.) Carefully flip fish and cook until crisp, brown and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, 3 to 4 minutes more.
Fold black-eyed peas, tomato,green onions, parsley and vinegar into rice. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Divide among serving plates and top with catfish.
Serving Size: 2 catfish fingers and 1/4 rice mixture
This light and lively meal captures the spirit of South America with its clever use of sweet tropical fruits, savory fish and crisp jicama. Freshness is key when it comes to the slaw, so pick a ripe, juicy pineapple (look for ones with bright green leaves and a firm shell).