In December, I had the opportunity to chat with John Besh, one of my favorite local celebrity chefs. Besh is a James Beard award-winning chef and New Orleans restaurateur.
I was finally getting my hands on a copy of his 2011 cookbook, “My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking.” Besh was inspired to publish this collection of family-friendly recipes after a conversation with his wife about his children’s eating habits. With recipes for Cauliflower Mac and Cheese and Asian Chicken Salad, Besh’s cookbook recreates some of his family’s favorite meals in easy and new ways.
Pictured: Cover of “My Family Table” (2011, John Besh).
When speaking with Besh, I asked what recipes he would suggest readers try first.
“I’m a really big fan of this book’s recipes for soup,” he said. “Any of the soups with lots of vegetables and a good-quality stock would be great,” he added, explaining the importance of homemade ingredients and vegetables.
A flavorful base seems to be half of the battle when convincing his kids to eat healthfully. After testing Besh’s recipes for the last six months, it is easy to see this idea in any warm or cold weather meal.
While I cannot say enough good things about Besh’s recipes for Vietnamese Noodle Soup, Creamy Lentil Soup and Southern Soup au Pistou (a hearty vegetable soup served with dollops of pesto), my favorite recipe is not a soup at all, but a delicious bean dish made with iconic New Orleans legumes, black-eyed peas.
Pictured: John Besh’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad. Recipe in “My Family Table” (Page 176).
Besh’s recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Salad (page 176) is a vegetable-based dish that adapts his recipe for Field Peas with a light vinaigrette. The dish is served cold and tossed with red onions and chives and is as filling as a bowl of hearty winter soup.
Perfect for summer, Besh’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad offers a healthful solution to eating more mindfully. And, while the recipe says it serves eight, I would argue it could serve a small army. Each testing of this recipe lasted through several family dinners and workday lunches. As a side dish, this Black-Eyed Pea Salad easily serves 10 to 12 and takes very little time to prepare.
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Serves: 10 to 12 (as a side); 8 (as an entrée)
*2 tbls. bacon drippings or cooking oil
*1 cup onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
*1 ham hock (available at your local butcher)
*1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
*1 gallon water plus more to soak peas (I used about 12 to 16 cups)
*1 1/2 cups red onion, thinly sliced
*2 tbls. chives, chopped
*3/4 cup walnut, pecan or mild cooking oil
*1/4 cup pepper jelly
*1/4 cup good-quality rice wine vinegar
*Salt and pepper, to taste
1.) To prepare the black-eyed peas: Cover one pound peas with water, soaking overnight, about 7 to 8 hours. Drain peas.
2.) In a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pot, warm bacon grease and onions, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and stir to combine, cooking until fragrant, about thirty seconds.
3.) Add ham hock, peas and 1 gallon of water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reducing heat to medium-low and simmering for at least 45 minutes to an hour. If more water is needed, add to pot, cooking peas until tender.
4.) To prepare black-eyed pea salad: Drain peas and remove ham hock. In a large bowl, combine red onion and chives with peas, stirring to combine.
5.) In a separate bowl, whisk together equal parts oil and vinegar, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette over peas and mix. Season peas with additional salt and pepper as necessary. Serve cold.
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Written by: Helana Brigman