Cowboy Caviar is a simple dish with an interesting history. You know, I’m sure, that black-eyed peas are served throughout the Southern United States on New Year’s Day. Some, in a curious mix of tradition and superstition, believe that consumption of black-eyed peas on that day will bring luck and prosperity in the coming year. Cowboy, or Texas, caviar is an offshoot of that tradition. This dish was developed by Helen Corbitt, a Yankee, who did not like black-eyed peas. She was the head chef at Nieman Marcus and was asked to create an all-Texas menu that would include black-eyed peas. Athens, Texas is, after all, the black-eyed pea capital of the world. Hard pressed to find an existing recipe that met her high standards, she decided to pickle them, and created a dish that could be eaten with a fork or scooped up to the mouth on a tortilla chip. Nowadays, Texans like their “caviar” year round and serve it at barbecues and other informal gatherings. While the name remains a mystery, cowboy caviar is a nice change of pace from standard bean salads that are usually served on those occasions. It’s easy to make and, like all pickled salads, can be made well ahead of serving. The original recipe consists of black-eyed peas and onions that are marinated in a vinaigrette. This is a recipe from the Saveur magazine.
2 ( 15-oz.) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 chopped red onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1) Combine beans, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, chiles, bell pepper and onion in a large bowl. Toss well.
2) Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 6 servings.