Arkansas Caviar

Louisianians, Mississippians, and Texans lay as much claim to the creation of black-eyed pea “caviar” as the folks in Arkansas, but since the best version I ever tasted was at an outrageous deer, possum, bear, and partridge barbecue I once attended near Jonesboro, Arkansas, in the Ozarks, I assign credit to what I call the “Catfish State.” (Arkansas is also the only state I know in the South that normally tops pork barbecue salad with Thousand Island dressing.) You can use fresh black-eyed peas if you care to go to all the trouble of soaking and boiling them and dealing with the hulls, but, frankly, canned peas are just as good for this unusual salad. Serve it at lunch with barbecue sandwiches or, in larger quantities, at fish fries or Brunswick Stew suppers.

Ingredients

  • 4 strips lean bacon
  • One 16-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, diced
  • ½ medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or teaspoon dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, and crumble.

In a large serving bowl, combine the crumbled bacon and all remaining ingredients and toss till well blended. Cover with plastic wrap, chill about 1 hour, and serve on small salad plates.