Holy Hannah, I think I just created my new favorite salad.
Hard to believe, considering I’m still obsessed with my raw kale & garbanzo salad from a couple months ago (and so are a lot of you fine folks, from what I’ve read… so glad to hear things like, “Even my picky 7 year old loved it!”), but lo and behold, here it is.
Going back to my original, frazzled, I-seriously-have-no-time-to-cook-anymore roots, this recipe came about because I was A) hungry as hell, and B) exhausted from the last couple of crazy weeks. Whoever said working from home was any easier than working a regular 9-5 at some office was on some serious drugs, because it’s no easy task at first! Especially when one’s work hours almost double (hooray!) and there’s a book to write (oh, and that pesky, evil PHN thing…blech.).
Needless to say, I’m still building the highly structured life that I will need to lead these next 5 months as I juggle all these exciting things. Between all that and variable work hours, I’m all over the place these days, which is a huge change from the years of working standard Monday through Friday, 9-5 schedules. It’s fun, and it’s the way I used to do things 150 years ago, but readjusting is taking some time.
Time I desperately miss spending in my nano-kitchen.
Part of what put me in a small panic before I threw this salad together was that I was out of all my pre-made Bare Bones essentials. Frozen, individually sized portions of brown rice? Gone. Pre-shredded chicken from my last delicious drunken version? Totally out. Everything that I’m used to having in my freezer & fridge for those super hectic days & nights was gone! How could this be? What the heck was I going to have for dinner?!
Not one to waste time when there are hunger pangs a-churnin’, I quickly threw on some pots of quinoa & brown rice to cook and put some dried legumes to soak. This time around I opted for a bowl of red kidney beans and another with black eyed peas, the latter of which looked extremely appealing as my next recipe victim. And what a fantastic choice it was!
Now, there are all sorts of fabulous recipes for Southern-style black eyed peas, filled with all sorts of comforting seasonings and spices — and some ham hock, of course. But that’s neither part of my cooking expertise nor was it the intended use for these funny looking legumes. Nay… I was just using them. Using them for their protein & fiber packed goodness, something I adore about all legumes (you know me and my love for ingredients that can multitask nutritionally).
Rather than go for the regular black eyed pea salad I’ve made in the past, which is quite tasty as well, I went a different route and brought in some sweet flavors and crunchy textures to play off the velvety smoothness of my peas. I still had a couple of mangoes from the last crazy mango sale they had at Safeway, and had just picked up some uber-cheap avocados, so I knew those would be great in the salad. For some crunch & color, I added sweet red peppers and red onions, turning my salad into a bowlful of delicious veggie confetti.
To tie all these beautiful things together, I whipped up a super simple dressing inspired by a dressing I made for another favorite salad of mine. I love the way cumin brings out the natural smokiness of legumes like black eyed peas, black beans, etc., but I didn’t want it to be the star of the show. So I toned it down by keeping the cumin as-is and softening the flavors with some honey and a kiss of lime juice, making it the perfect accompaniment to this salad.
If you have frozen black eyed peas at home, whether from the store or those that you cooked yourself, that’s a great way to cut down on the prep time. These guys do need at least a couple hours to cook well, but they’re well worth the wait if you have the time. I usually buy mine in bulk at the Co-op, though lately I’ve been getting them from Busalacchi Farms, one of the awesome vendors in our Sacramento farmers’ markets (the price is right and the flavor & freshness are superb, so if you’re a Sac local, hit ‘em up!). After a good soak, I let them simmer on the stove for a long while, then freeze about half in 1 – 1 1/2 cup portions and use the other half in that day’s meal.
This works wonders for me when it comes to saving time and money, so if you can manage to devote a couple hours a week to this sort of meal prep, crazy weeknights will be a lot less crazy. Sure, there are plenty of fresh foods that are now conveniently cooked, cut, and packaged for you, but what are you really paying for? The prep & packaging, not the food. It may be hard to get into the habit of setting aside a couple hours of meal prep time, but believe me – it’s far more economical to do certain things yourself, both price-wise and time-wise.
Anyway, this is a very summery salad that’s filling and packed with nutrition, and incredibly simple to prepare. I have a feeling this one’s going into regular rotation this summer, as I can see it being a wonderful side dish for barbecues and potlucks. Right now, I’m perfectly content eating this for lunch or dinner for the next 10 days. Or until I buy another bunch of curly kale… ; )
Black Eyed Pea & Mango Salad with Honey-Cumin Vinaigrette (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.25)
2 c cooked black eyed peas
1/2 c diced red onion
3/4 c diced red bell pepper
1 medium mango, diced (about 1 cup)
1 medium avocado, chopped
2 T finely chopped cilantro
1/4 c light oil (canola, grapeseed, etc.)
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T honey
1/4 c key lime juice (regular lime juice is also fine)
1/2 t ground cumin
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Prepare the dressing by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
2. Combine all the salad ingredients in a larger bowl. Pour the dressing into the salad and fold together gently, so as to not mash the avocado. Serve on its own or as a side to grilled chicken or shrimp, and enjoy!