Monday, January 16, 2012

Lucky John Hops into the New Year: Black Eyed Pea and Ham Salad

When growing up, my parents hosted an annual New Year's Day party. In addition to family favorites, my mom filled the table with traditional dishes thought to impart good luck to the eater.

Several years ago, my husband and I began hosting our own New Year's celebration and I renewed my mother's tradition. Well sort of.

Rejecting the herring (I just don't want money that badly), Hopping John always graces our table though more for the flavor it provides than the luck it promises.

The second helping I returned for must have done the trick because 2012 has started on a really great note. Between a successful annual appeal, a new logo and a new office in the Green Exchange for Purple Asparagus, the New Year has been treating me well thus far.

While Hopping John with its indulgences of white rice and pork rich stock is a one a year dish, black eyed peas should not be. For a healthier, weekday version of the combination, try this Black Eyed Pea and Ham Salad. Hopefully, you too will enjoy some good fortune afterwards.

Black Eyed Pea and Ham Salad
Serves 4

3/4 cup black eyed peas
1 bay leaf
1/4 yellow onion
1 celery stalk
1/2 red pepper
1/2 chayote squash
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup cubed ham

Soak the peas for 3 hours. Drain and dump into a medium pot. Cover with cold water and add a large pinch of kosher salt and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the peas are tender approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

While the beans are cooking, cut the onion, celery, and pepper into small dice. Core the squash and cut into julienne strips.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

In a nonstick saute pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the ham cubes and cook until lightly browned. Cool.

Drain the peas and cool slightly. Dump them into a medium bowl. Add vegetables and ham. Fold the dressing into the salad. Serve as a light main course or as a side dish.

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