Texas Caviar. There are those who adore the black-eyed pea and those who deem it better suited to the provisioning of livestock. But there aren’t many Texans who won’t eat just a few on New Year’s Day in adherence to the notion that doing so brings good fortune in the year ahead.” — Courtney Bond
How a New Yorker created a famous Texas party dish
Texas Caviar is a salad/dip of black-eyed peas pickled in a vinaigrette dressing, usually served as an accompaniment to tortilla chips. It’s a Texan-born dish brought to us by Helen Corbitt, who Texas Monthly once described as an ambivalent Texas transplant. The magazine also referred to Corbitt, who was a longtime director of food service for The Zodiac, a Neiman Marcus restaurant in downtown Dallas, as a “fearless burr in the saddle of Texas cookery.”
Corbitt, a native New Yorker, wasn’t fond of black-eyed peas and hoped pickling them would make them palatable and unwittingly created one of the more famous Texas party dishes. The dish didn’t receive its signature name until appearing at the Driskill Hotel in Austin as a humorous comparison to the well-known pickled fish roe.
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas drained and rinsed
½ cup green onion (tops and bottoms)
1 medium jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 cup diced tomato
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
½ cup Italian dressing or vinaigrette
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
In a large bowl, combine peas and next 5 ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing, lemon juice and next four ingredients. Combine, stir, cover and refrigerate for several hours. Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips.
West Texas variation: Substitute black beans and corn for black-eyed peas and add cubed avocado just before serving. This also makes a great vegetarian nacho topping. Place chips in a baking dish and top with caviar, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake in the oven or under the broiler until cheese is melted.