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black eyed peas in a bowl

Black-eyed peas are a Southern pantry staple. Charla Draper, a former food editor for Ebony magazine, invited WBEZ to her home in Chatham, where she showed us how to make her signature black-eyed pea salad.

Manuel Martinez

black eyed peas in a bowl

Black-eyed peas are a Southern pantry staple. Charla Draper, a former food editor for Ebony magazine, invited WBEZ to her home in Chatham, where she showed us how to make her signature black-eyed pea salad.

Manuel Martinez

Charla Draper’s black-eyed pea salad will be your new go-to summer dish

Black-eyed peas are a Southern pantry staple. Charla Draper, a former food editor for Ebony magazine, invited WBEZ to her home in Chatham, where she showed us how to make her signature black-eyed pea salad.

Manuel Martinez

   

Charla Draper’s career in food spans decades: Best known as the food editor at Ebony and Southern Living magazines, she has also worked as a culinary stylist, blogger and publicist. Draper founded National Soul Food Month in 2001; the annual celebration of African American cooking and culinary traditions happens in June.



Charla Draper prepares a salad

Charla Draper’s recipe for “Mississippi caviar” over a bed of lettuces is cool, filling and easy to prepare.

Manuel Martinez

On this summer day, she’s preparing her signature black-eyed pea salad in her sunny kitchen in Chatham.

“Salads are probably one of my most favorite things to make, “ Draper exclaimed as she pulled together the ingredients.



ingredients for a salad

‘Most people know black-eyed peas as a hot stew-type dish that they eat at the first of the year,’ Draper says. ‘But what I’ve done today is to take the traditional black-eyed pea and make a salad.’

Manuel Martinez

Black-eyed peas are a Southern pantry staple. The hearty legumes are native to West Africa and were brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans. The bean has a deep earthy flavor and is often stewed with salted pork and served with collards, rice or cornbread. According to folklore, the peas symbolize health and wealth, which is why eating them on New Year’s Day is a tradition to ensure prosperity for the coming year.

Black eyed peas combined with vegetables

Black-eyed peas, a hearty legume native to West Africa, have a deep, earthy flavor.

Manuel Martinez

But, Draper’s recipe for “Mississippi caviar” over a bed of lettuces is actually the perfect meal for the summer. It’s cool, filling and, most importantly, easy.

Calling for just a quick simmer of frozen black-eyed peas, this salad doesn’t even demand the making of a vinaigrette. Draper says any salad dressing will do. Her choice today? A bottled Italian dressing from her pantry. The salad serves six. Draper also suggests mixing the dressed peas-and-vegetables with leftover rice for a terrific side dish.

salad on a platter

The salad is Draper’s own creation, but she says she was inspired by a book called ‘A Date with A Dish: A Cook Book of American Negro Recipes.’

Manuel Martinez

Field Greens with Mississippi Caviar

Ingredients:

¾ cup water

1 clove garlic, minced

Dash of ground black pepper

1 20 oz. pkg. frozen black-eyed peas

1/2 cup bottled reduced-calorie Italian salad dressing

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch long strips (about a cup)

1 medium tomato, chopped (about a cup)

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup chopped red onion

6 cups torn assorted salad greens, such as spring mix and iceberg lettuce

Directions:

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine water, garlic, and pepper; bring mixture to boil. Add black-eyed peas; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until peas are tender. Drain.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine peas, Italian dressing, bell pepper strips, tomato, parsley, and onion. Toss lightly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.
  3. To serve, arrange salad greens on a platter and scatter the dressed black-eyed peas and vegetables over the top in a layer, as prettily as you can.
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