Saturday, June 4, 2011

These Black-Eyed Peas Don't Sing

My family loved picnics. Ever since I can remember, eating outdoors was my parent's favorite past time. Once I was married and in charge of cooking, packing, and hauling the food, picnics fell greatly out of favor--at least with me. Even today, I find no fun in sitting on the ground, swishing away flies, and packing up leftovers and dirty dishes to take home. My theory? Eat first, then go have fun with the family and friends.

Considering what I know now, I'm surprised I've lived so long. I grew up in an era where family picnics, church picnics, group picnics, scout picnics, and all the other summer picnics consisted of potluck food. The fried chicken sat out in the sun, waiting for someone to take the last piece; the mayo based potato salad did the same, as did the deviled eggs. Then there was the mayo based coleslaw and the smoked fish--all washed down with unpasteurized milk straight from the cow. All disasters waiting to happen. So how is it I've lived more than 70 years?

Maybe I'm a living miracle. More likely, God had mercy on a whole generation of us who knew no better. In today's world, I no longer take potato salad into the wild; fried chicken is a no, no. It isn't because I've been informed but because everyone else has too. What a waste it would be, since nobody would eat it and I'd just end up tossing it out.

After years of searching for picnic-safe foods, I've had some misses and near misses and a couple of tasty choices. And while each was tolerable, non tickled my palette like the one I'm blogging today. The center of this sunny day picnic salad is black-eyed peas--the original kind that just sort of hang around looking dull and tasteless. But combine them with anything else from the garden or market and your tongue is in for a tangy surprise that's sun-safe, heat-safe, and time-safe. And all because of a tiny legume that's known as a pea but is really a bean.

Black-eyed peas are popular in the South, but they offer such a mild, almost nutty flavor that they should become a favorite in every part of our nation.


1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed
1 cup mushrooms, any kind, chopped small
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing, your favorite

Put the peas, mushrooms, and salad dressing into a medium-sized bowl. Set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Longer if possible in order to allow the dressing to permeate the peas and mushrooms.

In the meanwhile, cut into small pieces:

1 small red bell pepper
1 small green bell pepper
1 cucumber, seeded
1 tomato, seeded
2 green onions, sliced thin
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
4 oz. smoked tofu, cut into small cubes
8 Kalamata olives, chopped small
Pepperoncini pickles, as many as you wish, chopped small

Add all of the chopped ingredients into the bowl of peas and mushrooms. Mix well so the salad dressing is well distributed with all the vegetables.

These ingredients made a far larger salad than I had imagined. The first night, I stuffed a good portion inside a wheat pita pocket and added lettuce as a finishing touch. It was tasty and filling. I barely had room for the roasted corn I'd made.

The next day, I put some of the salad in a bowl (above) and ate it plain, accompanied by a few wheat crackers. The salad was much better than the day it was made. A pleasant surprise.

By the third day, I was nearing the end of my stash so I added some cilantro and a splash of hot sauce, mashed everything together and rolled it into a warm flour tortilla. By now, the salad was singing on my palette, forcing me to determine that maybe even this kind of black-eyed peas also had talent.

Conclusion: This summer salad keeps well and grows better each day that it stands, leading me to believe that I should make it about 3 days in advance of serving it. Every vegetable stayed fresh and flavorful and nothing tasted mushy. A real winner for those who attend picnics and want to take a dish that can take the sun without growing any nasty bacterias.

Copyright 2011 by Sandra L. Keith, All rights reserved
Top photo courtesy of MS Word Clip Art
Middle photo belongs to the author and may not be reproduced without permission

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