Our recipe for Southern Black-eyed Pea Caviar includes ham for an extra measure of good luck. Southerners consider it good luck to eat black-eyed peas on New Years day. The peas look like little coins when cooked, so they are thought to symbolize wealth. They also swell when cooked, another sign of prosperity. Other southerners eat cabbage and pork. Cabbage because it looks like cash and pork as the pig symbolizes progress because pigs push forward, rooting themselves in the ground before moving.
People around the world eat special food on New Years. In Germany they dine on carp and often will place several pieces of the fish’s scales in their wallets to insure financial good luck. In other cultures, a coin is hidden inside a cake and the recipient of the coin is said to be lucky. In Spain, Mexico and Cuba they eat twelve grapes, one for each month, at the stroke of midnight. If the grape is sweet, the month will be good one and if it’s sour, a bad one. Martha Stewart suggests threading twelve grapes on a wooden skewer and serving them with champagne. Be sure to avoid lobster because they move backwards and might lead to setbacks and any winged fowl for fear good luck could fly away.
There are many variations to this recipe. We frequently fix it with sliced tomatoes on the side rather than in the salad and accompany it with sausage poppers (see recipe in cheese poppers post below). We’ve also served it with chopped fresh avocado on top. Others call for Mexican tomatoes (Rotel) instead of fresh tomatoes and include corn. On New Years you could also serve cabbage slaw alongside for even more good luck. Please use the recipe search sites on the right for other ideas.
Black- Eyed Pea Caviar
Serve with tortilla scoops. Easily doubled or tripled and good for a crowd. Be sure to write the recipe on a few cards because everyone always wants a copy.
1 (15.8 oz) can black-eyed peas, drained & rinsed well
¾ cup cubed ham steak
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
and Worcestershire sauce Tabasco
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 ½ cups chopped tomato
2 tablespoons chopped scallion including some green tops
2 tablespoon chopped seeded fresh jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley
Jalapeno slices and cilantro sprigs for garnish (optional)
Place black-eyed peas in bowl. Sauté ham over medium heat in a non stick skillet until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Let cool for a moment and add it to the peas. Put olive oil, vinegar, sugar, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper in jar and shake well. Toss over peas and ham and stir to coat. Add tomatoes, onions, scallions, jalapeno and cilantro; toss well. Refrigerate for a couple of hours for flavors to develop. Bring to room temperature and garnish with jalapeno slices and cilantro sprigs if desired.