Monday, July 13, 2009

The Perfect Picnic & BBQ Salad

By Pat Tanner

I have serious issues with the usual summer side salads. I think mayonnaise-dressed salads like potato, macaroni, and coleslaw are just plain wrong – they’re heavy when you want light and worrisome when left unrefrigerated for any length of time. And don’t get me started on three-bean salad, the mushy, acrid bane of my childhood summers. (Does anyone even eat three-bean salad anymore?)

So it is with great pride that I share with you the perfect alternative: black-eyed pea salad. This sweet-and-sour version comes from the family of Sylvia Woods, the matriarch of the landmark Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem. It’s delicious, colorful, made in advance, ridiculously easy (especially if you microwave the frozen peas), and it keeps well. Beyond that, black-eyed peas are an excellent source of calcium, folate, and vitamin A. If that’s too healthful for you, Emeril Lagasse makes a version with bacon.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Adapted from “Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook,” Sylvia Woods and Family (William Morrow 1999)

Serves 4 to 5

1-1/2 cups frozen black-eyed peas, cooked according to package directions
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion

For the dressing:
1/4 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste

In a large bowl combine the cooked black-eyed peas, green and red peppers, celery, and red onion.

In a small bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Pour the dressing over the beans. Toss. Let stand at room temperature for at least two hours or refrigerate overnight.

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