I love visiting the library. Ours has been redone within the last year, but I loved going even before the new construction. I’m a bookworm when it comes to self-help books and mystery/espionage novels– but cookbooks are the inevitable draw when I pop in to our bibliotheque to see what’s new. For me, it’s not uncommon to check out 5-8 cookbooks per trip, which I will methodically read while sitting on the patio, fans running at full tilt to wick the summer shimmer from my brow. Some provide more inspiration than others. When I picked up The Blackberry Farm Cookbook by chef and proprietor, Sam Beall and began leafing through the stories and recipes, I knew I wanted to take my time with it. It was aspirational in that it made me dream about a respite at this beautiful inn. At the same time, the writing, photographs and recipes were warm, cozy and inviting.
With each new recipe, I was making mental lists of ingredients I needed to make the dishes that are so beautifully photographed on the pages within. The recipes and stories are appropriately divided into seasons and each one focuses on the bounty that prevails during that time of year. There were recipes for 5 different types of fried chicken, Mr. Feather’s onion rings (pick me, pick me), roasted peach tart and Blackberry Farm biscuits. And those were just some of the Summer recipes. There was still Fall, Winter and Spring. Wow!
This black-eyed pea salad spoke to my southern roots. In the book it’s served with barbecued quail — not exactly a Florida staple, so we subbed it with some brined, grilled pork chops. I made a few minor tweaks here and there just because I can’t help myself (and you know me and lemon zest), but this is pretty close to Sam Beall’s recipe.
The black-eyed peas are creamy, the marinated bell peppers give a light freshness to the dish and the tender tarragon adds a just-so element of anise. Not overpowering, but perfumed, nonetheless. This could be served warm or at room temperature — which automatically makes it perfect for picnics and barbecues.
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
- 1 lb dried black-eyed peas
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 3 tablespoons malt vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon tarragon leaves chopped
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves minced, divided
- 1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more to taste
- 1 red bell pepper cored, seeded, diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper cored seeded, diced
- 1 orange bell pepper cored seeded, diced
- 3 scallions thinly sliced on a bias
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 strips of bacon
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 lemon zested
- Place beans in a large pot. Sort through the beans and remove any foreign material (i.e. pebbles, poor quality beans etc.) Add enough water to cover beans by about 3 inches. Soak overnight at room temperature.
- In a large bowl add vinegars, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon tarragon, thyme, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add bell peppers, scallions, garlic and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, drain the peas. Add bacon, stock, water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves and bacon, discard. Drain stock from the beans. Add beans to the pepper vinaigrette. Toss to combine. Rest for 30 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest and remaining tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.
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