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FRESH Point of View: Cook Like a Texan – Texas Caviar

If you hang around Texas long enough, you come to realize there are certain foods Texans feel very strongly about: Chicken-fried steak. Cheese enchiladas. Fried pies. (Apricot ones, if you’re being authentic.) Barbecue, but the Texas kind _ slow smoked, tender beef brisket, sauce served on the side.

Most good Texas cooks have their own way of making their own Texas favorites, and if you want to be taken seriously as a cook here, you need to learn how to make at least a few of the staples. I didn’t grow up in Texas, but I’ve learned to love a lot of the dishes that are authentically Texan. Over the next several months, we’ll be sharing the FRESH version of some of these favorites. So you can either make them yourself, or compare to your version.

Today, we’re taking on Texas Caviar. Of course, it’s not REAL caviar; that’s the whole joke. Instead, the main ingredient is something that’s just as revered by Texans – black-eyed peas. In this dish, instead of being served with rice as hoppin’ john, the peas are “pickled” in olive oil and citrus juice, for a spicy, fresh taste.

According to legend, this dish was invented by the famous Texas cook Helen Corbitt, who once directed food service at Neiman-Marcus. Corbitt, a New York import, apparently didn’t care much for the traditional way southerners cooked black-eyed peas. But when she was working at a country club in Houston, she was forced to serve them on New Year’s Day – because what Texan would start the New Year without eating the peas for good luck? She came up with this idea, and the rest is history. Texas history, that is.

Texas Caviar

2 cans black- eyed peas or 3 cups fresh cooked Texas Black-Eyed Peas
1 medium Jacksonville tomato, diced
2 ears of fresh Texas corn, cut from cobs
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 small Noonday onion, diced
6 Tbs fresh lime juice
6 Tbss olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh minced garlic

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Stir and taste; adjust seasonings to taste by adding more salt, pepper or lime juice as needed.

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, pita bread or other flatbread/crackers of your choice.