Happy New Year’s Eve! If you didn’t grow up in the American South, you may not know that there are a slew of foods that are considered lucky to eat on the first day of the year. They are symbolic of success in a variety of areas: eating greens such as collard, turnip or mustard greens symbolize prosperity, pork products represent moving forward, and probably the best known tradition, eating black-eyed peas, means you have a year of good luck to look forward to.
The tradition actually started more than 2000 years ago with the Jewish custom of eating them at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Sephardi Jews arrived in America in the 1730’s and settled in the South. During the American Civil War in the 1860’s, when Union General Sherman pillaged his way through the Confederacy, the only crops he didn’t destroy were field peas and corn which he considered only suitable for animal fodder. These surviving plants enabled Southerners to persevere. Of course, today it may be more of a way for parents to get children to eat their vegetables, LOL!
Black-eyed peas are a medium-sized edible bean or legume, and got their name from the black spot visible on each bean. Fairly neutral in taste, they are the perfect foil for other big flavors. Often paired with pork and rice in a dish called “Hoppin’ John”, they are an excellent source of calcium, folate, and vitamin A.
Today’s recipe is an adaptation of a vegetable salsa. I was introduced to it in a cooking class taught by Rick Rodgers, a veteran cookbook author and teacher. Rick has a delightful down-to-earth style and fantastic recipes that make us all look like pros. Some of his many cookbooks are “Tea and Cookies,” “Slow Cooker Ready & Waiting,” “Williams-Sonoma: Comfort Food,” “Winter Gatherings,” and “Tips Cooks Love.” If you want collections of approachable recipes that you will return to time and again, buy Rick’s books!! You can also follow him at his website, Rick Rodgers’ Cusine Americaine.
I love chips and dip in just about any combination, so I was immediately drawn to this recipe. It is a bit unusual because it isn’t the common creamy consistency, but rather, chunky with fresh vegetables. More like a salsa than a dip, it can also be served with Mexican dishes or as a filling for vegetarian enchiladas or burritos. Change the vegetables to utilize what you have on hand, or add different beans such as garbanzos, white, or even adzuki. Cooked lentils or split peas would also be good used in this manner. When you are looking for the chips to serve with it, any that are “scoop” shaped will work. Because of the chunky texture, flat chips won’t work nearly as well.
I love the dawning of the New Year and hope that your 2011 is full of joy, laughter, hope, sunshine, and prosperity. May you reach all your goals, gain new insights, and develop new friendships. Wishing you peace and happiness my friends!
Lucky Texas Caviar (Black-Eyed Pea Vegetable Dip)
Jane Evans Bonacci © 2009 – Inspired by a Rick Rodgers recipe
Yield: Makes about 6 cups
2 (15-1/2 oz) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-1/2 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz) can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilis, drained
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 green onions, minced
1/2 cup minced red bell pepper
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced, or more to taste
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 drops Sriracha or other hot sauce, optional
1/2 tsp sugar
3 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
“Scoopable” corn chips or tortilla chips
Mix the black-eye peas, black beans, tomatoes, red onions, green onions, red pepper, celery, corn, and jalapeno in a bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes to warm. Set aside. (Note: warm ingredients absorb more flavor.)
In a food processor, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, Sriracha, sugar, and garlic. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil. Process until thick and creamy. Scrape down the sides as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour this over the vegetable mixture. Toss to completely blend. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and refrigerate to chill. You can make this up to 2 days ahead. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve chilled or at room temperature with the tortilla chips.
Short Cut: You can use a store-bought Italian salad dressing to make this easier.
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