Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Black-eyed peas are a favorite legume of Sephardic cuisines. At the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah seder—a ceremony of blessings over symbolic foods at the start of the first evening meal—the peas symbolize a new year that is rich in blessings and prosperity. Lentils or green beans can be used instead for the same blessing depending on family origins and traditions.
A heat-loving crop, black-eyed peas grow easily in many places around the world. From origins in Africa, the crop made its way to Judea around 500 BCE. In the US, black-eyed peas became a favorite of Southern cooks with roots in the slave culinary tradition, but this protein-filled legume deserves to make an appearance more often.
This salad is an easy and satisfying make-ahead dish for holiday meals, year-round gatherings and every-day eating. It can be made right before eating, but it’s even better made at least a few hours before serving or even the day before so the flavors have a chance to blend. Feel free to adjust the vegetables or seasoning to your liking. Serve the salad cold or at room temperature, as a side dish or as the centerpiece of a vegetarian lunch or supper. Mound the peas in a beautiful bowl or on a platter lined with romaine or Boston lettuce leaves for an appealing presentation. I like arranging a platter of endive leaves with a teaspoon of the salad on the end of each leaf and serving as a starter at the Rosh Hashanah meal or as an appetizer or snack any time.
- 1 pound dried or 4 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas
- 1-2 bay leaves (optional)
- 7-8 cups water
- 3-4 green onions
- 1 red pepper
- 2-3 stalks celery
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Juice and zest from 1 medium lemon
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- Pinch or 2 of cayenne or Aleppo pepper (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- If using dried black-eyed peas, sort and wash in a strainer. Put into a 5- to 6-quart pot, add bay leaves if using (I like the little bit of extra flavor depth) and cover the peas with about 7 to 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook peas, partially covered, about 45 minutes until just tender, but not mushy. When cooked, drain well in a strainer or colander, rinse with cool water to stop cooking.
- If using canned peas, drain, then wash well with cool water and drain thoroughly.
- Cut the green onions into ¼-inch or smaller pieces on the diagonal. Clean the pepper and celery and cut into a small dice. Add the vegetables to a mixing bowl. Add the drained peas to the bowl and gently mix well to blend ingredients.
- To prepare the dressing, combine all the ingredients except the zest in a liquid measuring cup and whisk until emulsified, or put into a glass jar and shake vigorously until emulsified. Use cayenne or Aleppo pepper for extra spiciness. Stir in the zest until blended. Taste and adjust seasonings, then pour into the pea mixture and mix gently, but well, to incorporate. At this point, the salad can be refrigerated for several hours until serving or even 2 or 3 days in advance. Making it an advance give the flavors a chance to ripen.
- To serve, mound the peas in a beautiful bowl, perhaps with some standing leaves of endive, or mound on a platter lined with leaves of romaine or Boston lettuce. You can also serve as “finger food” by arranging a platter of endive leaves with a teaspoon of the salad on the end of each leaf. Garnish salad with chopped parsley before serving if desired.