If you are “from around these parts,” as we’re fond of saying in Texas, you’re probably already familiar with the regional dish called Texas Caviar.
If you’re not, well, let’s be very clear on something right up front. As a Dallas Morning News food writer said a few years ago, “The first thing you need to know about Texas Caviar is that it isn’t actually caviar, any more than Rocky Mountain Oysters are actually oysters.” (And, um, Texas Caviar isn’t nearly as gross, either.)
“Texas Caviar” is a jazzed-up version of black-eyed peas. It’s a salad of black-eyed peas and a number of other diced vegetables, all marinated in an oily vinaigrette or Italian dressing. Texas Caviar is usually served cold, and is either eaten with a fork or scooped up in a tortilla chip.
According to the article above, Helen Corbitt, a 1950s food consultant and cookbook author who directed food service at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, created the dish, which she originally called ”pickled black-eyed peas.” Some years later, when she took her recipe to Austin’s Driskill Hotel, the dish got the nickname of Texas Caviar.
I used to buy Pita Pal’s version of Texas Caviar. It’s lighter than most recipes (especially those that call for a cup or more of Italian salad dressing), but still higher in sodium and fat than I’d like in my nutritarian diet. I figured that this was a good plant-strong recipe that could be made even better. So I decided to create my own version.
I started with the ingredients list found below Pita Pal’s nutrition facts label on the container. When you’re trying to re-create a recipe like this, it’s helpful to remember that the ingredients are listed in descending order by their weight in the finished recipe. So, I began with the black-eyed peas, and added ingredients in decreasing quantities from there.
The final dish had a fresh taste that really let the flavors of all those veggies shine through. I served it–well, what was left after all of my sampling, anyway!–on a large bed of spring mix for a nice, healthy, fiber-filled lunch.
"Texas Caviar" is a jazzed-up cold salad of black-eyed peas and crunchy diced vegetables. This healthy nutritarian version eliminates oil and salt.
- For salad:
- Black-eyed peas - 15-oz can, no salt added, rinsed and drained
- Red bell pepper - 1 medium, cut into 1/4-in dice
- Jicama - 1 cup, cut into 1/4-in dice
- Corn - 3/4 cup kernels
- Sweet yellow onion - 1/2 cup, cut into 1/4-in dice
- Italian parsley - 1/2 cup loosely packed, finely chopped
- For dressing:
- Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
- Orange juice - 1/4 cup, fresh
- Lime juice - 3 tablespoons, fresh
- Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon, fresh
- Ground cumin - 1 teaspoon
- Jalapeño pepper - 1/2, ribs and seeds removed
- Chipotle pepper powder - 1 pinch
- Ground black pepper - to taste
Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
In a Vita-Mix or high-powered blender, combine all of the dressing ingredients except black pepper. Blend until smooth. Check for spiciness; if you want it hotter, add the other half of the jalapeño and blend again. Season with pepper.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to blend.