Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Jalapeño Cornbread Croutons

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adapted from: Food & Wine February 2014
serves: 6

I’ve been wanting to make this salad which was the Salad of the Month in this month’s issue of Food & Wine, but I adapted it quite a bit. The type of cornbread was not specified, so I made Northern cornbread with jalapeños- you know I like some spice in my food! Secondly, I swapped watercress for arugula (the grocery was out of watercress, but either work). Thirdly, I was lazy and just used canned black-eyed peas. I used 15 ounces of beans, but would not do that again because there was far too much sauce and dressing. If you are going the canned bean route, use at least 1 ½ cans, maybe two, to make sure the ratio of beans to the dressing is more appropriate. You will also need to salt them quite a bit, as they haven’t been cooked with the spices and bacon fat that the recipe calls for. This is also the vegetarian option-or you can cook the black-eyed peas without the bacon. I will include the original recipe though, in case you want to cook your own peas, as I plan on doing next time! This is a great tribute to Southern cooking, with the black-eyed peas tossed with hot sauce and the cornbread turned into croutons. Feel free to use whatever cornbread you like, I included the recipe I used below.

for the beans

1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
2 ounces bacon, cut into ¼” dice
2 ¼ cups dried black-eyed peas (15 ounces)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
5 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf

for the rest
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon New Mexico chile powder (or use whatever mix of chile powders you like)
¼ teaspoon Ancho chile powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cumin
pinch of sugar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used Franks)
1 bunch arugula
freshly ground white pepper
½ pound cornbread, cut into ½” cubes and lightly toasted under the broiler

In a large pot, heat the canola oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peas, stock, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the peas and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf; you can reserve the cooking liquid for another use.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the parsley, chile powders, cumin, and sugar, then whisk in the olive oil and season with salt. Let stand for at least 30 minutes.

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In a bowl, toss the black-eyed peas with the melted butter, lemon juice and hot sauce and season with some of the vinaigrette. Add the arugula, season with salt and white pepper and toss.

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Transfer the salad to plates and garnish with the cornbread croutons. Serve the extra vinaigrette on the side.

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Golden Northern Cornbread with Jalapeño (slightly adapted from The New Best Recipe)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 jalapeño, stemmed & minced
1 cup fine-grind, stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk

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Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with the butter.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Push the dry ingredients up the sides of the bowl to make a well.

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Crack the eggs into the well and stir them lightly with a wooden spoon, then add the milks. Stir the wet and dry ingredients quickly until almost combined. Add the melted butter and chopped jalapeño, and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

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Pour the batter into the greased pan.

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Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and lightly cracked, and the edges has slightly pulled away from the pan, about 20-25 minutes.

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Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, 5-10 minutes. Invert onto the wire rack to cool completely. Cut desired amount into squares and toast under the broiler. The remaining cornbread can be wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.

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