Monday, May 19, 2014

Texas Caviar

Texas Caviar: Only you can decide if this is a salad or dip.
Texas Caviar is an all time favorite recipe from my childhood.  I remember being up at my grandparent's cabin and eating enormous mixing bowls full of it with my cousins over the Fourth of July weekend every year.  When my cousin, Bjorn, first brought his girlfriend, Ann, up to the cabin, she volunteered to bring a dip.  She brought the world's most enormous container of Texas Caviar.  My other cousin and I took a test bite, and then another, just to be sure it was as delicious as it seemed.

As soon as Ann was out of the room, my cousin said to me, "I can tell she's a keeper; look at how much salsa she brought!"

Sure enough, the next summer Bjorn and Ann got married.

Texas Caviar is an awesomely popular and widely adapted recipe, and this recipe comes to you courtesy of my Mom's best friend Jeri.  

I have, of course, taken more than my fair share of liberties with the recipe, but I think we can all agree that a great recipe like this is like a great house.  You might change from Victorian furniture, to shag carpet, to DIY vintage, but the bones of the house stay the same.  It's the same thing with this recipe.  I might have added a few ingredients, and subbed out a few ingredients, but the heart of the recipe remains the same.

My riff on Jeri's recipe reminds me of one of my favorite passages in Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, a book that my mom gave to me for mother's day. Niequist writes, "I'm not really a recpie girl. My Mom teases me about it, knowing that when I say I used a recipe, all it means is that at some point, some list of ingredients and techniques were involved as I threw things in pans, as I sliced, poured, salted and peppered with seeming randomness.  She does not particularly appreciate this cooking style, and sometimes she has to leave the kitchen because my loosey-goosey approach makes her nervous."

When I was making this Texas Caviar, I had a hard time deciding if it was a salsa or a salad. I've landed on both, but mainly because we ran out of chips, and I did not want even a single bite of this delicious dish go to waste.  

The black eyed peas and garbanzo beans form the tender and mild backbone of this Texas Caviar, but the real flavor party starts to happen when you add sweet peppers and ripe corn, the lightly acidic bite of grape tomatoes.  Creamy, rich avocados contrast with the sweet and acidic vegetables, and the pungent zest of red onions and cilantro highlights all of the flavors.  But to make this dish sing, you really need Jeri's balsamic vinaigrette. Her dressing is a perfectly simple and balanced dressing that soaks into the beans and the vegetables causing each distinct flavor to harmonize, like a very small my belly.

The specific recipe I made is below, but leave a comment to let me know your favorite adaptations.  I'm going to be making this again on Saturday, and I'm always looking to try something new.

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Texas Caviar
Texas Caviar is a bean salsa. Perfect for eating with tortilla chips, or not. Depending on how you're feeling that day.
  • 2 Cans or 1 Cup Dried Black Eyed Peas- Cooked
  • 1 Can or 2/3 Cup Dried Garbanzo Beans- Cooked
  • 1 Cup Fresh or Frozen Corn Kernels
  • 1 Cup Grape Tomatoes- Diced
  • 1 Small Red Onion- Diced
  • 1 Avocado- Diced
  • 1/2 Bunch Cilantro- Finely Diced
  • 1/4 Cup Balsamic
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
1. Mix beans, vegetables, and cilantro in a very large bowl.2. Whisk Balsamic, olive oil, sugar and salt until well combined3. Gently pour dressing over vegetables and mix until everything is soaked.4. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow vegetables to marinate before serving.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 10 Servings

1 comment :

  1. It looks like you out a bell pepper in there as well. I'm going to add a green one.