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Cowboy Caviar

Texas

Who knew Texas’s Cowboy Caviar was such a hot topic! Some say it’s a type of Mexican salsa or pico de gallo while others claim that it was Helen Corbitt who invented it. She was a New Yorker who had moved to Texas in the 1940s—and was later Neiman Marcus’s food service director. She made the dish for a New Year’s party, using black-eyed peas (symbolizing good luck for the new year) in a red wine vinaigrette, and served it with tortilla chips, jokingly calling it “Texas caviar.” It has since evolved on the internet to be- come a free-for-all, adding any kind of beans, pineapple, mango, sliced black olives, sweet pickled jalapeños . . . the list goes on and on. Whatever you call it, it’s a definite crowd pleaser even if people have gone wild with the ingredients. Here is my latest take inspired by the original salad. – Darlene Schrijver 

START OUT

  • Ice water
  • 3⁄4 cup (175 ml) diced red onion (1⁄4-inch/6-mm pieces)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) diced Roma tomatoes, or substitute what looks best at the market (1⁄4-inch/6-mm pieces)

WHISK

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pressed garlic
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) avocado oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) chili powder
  • Flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

TOSS

  • 2 cups (475 ml) cooked or rinsed and drained canned black-eyed peas
  • 2 cups (475 ml) cooked or rinsed and drained canned black beans
  • 2 cups (475 ml) raw sweet or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup (240 ml) peeled and diced jicama (1⁄4-inch/6-mm pieces)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup (240 ml) diced avocado (1⁄4-inch/6-mm pieces)
  • 3⁄4 cup (175 ml) finely crumbled Cotija cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) diced red bell pepper (1⁄4-inch/6-mm pieces)
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) diced yellow or orange bell pepper (1⁄4-inch/6-mm pieces)
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) diced green bell pepper (1⁄4-inch/6-mm pieces)
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) chopped scallions (green parts only)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) very finely diced seeded and deveined fresh jalapeño
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) very finely diced seeded and deveined fresh red Anaheim chile
  • 8 cups (1,900 ml) thick tortilla chips, for serving

START OUT:

Fill a 500-ml beaker or a small glass bowl halfway with ice water and add the onion. Soak for 10 minutes, then drain and pat the onion dry. Place the tomatoes in a colander and gently press down with a spoon to drain off excess liquid.

WHISK:

Rinse the pressed garlic in a very fine mesh strainer and shake off any excess water. In a huge salad bowl (at least 17 inches/43 cm in diameter if possible), combine the garlic, oil, vinegar, agave, lime juice, and chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined, then taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

TOSS:

In the bowl with the dressing, add the black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, jicama, cilan- tro, avocado, cheese, red bell peppers, yellow peppers, green peppers, scallions, jalapeño, Ana- heim chile, tomatoes, and onions. Toss until all the ingredients are evenly combined and coated with dressing. The salad can sit for up to a couple hours (and the flavor will get even better); just remember to stir it occasionally. Serve with the chips on the side.

ENJOY:

I’m having it with a rosé, agua fresca, or a giant glass of water.

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