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Home on the Range: A Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Salad


Published December 30, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

Black-Eyed Pea, Kale and Celery Root Salad - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Black-Eyed Pea, Kale and Celery Root Salad
Around New Year's Day, a friend shared that she was cooking a menu of foods that are supposed to bring good luck.

Depending on the country and culture, auspicious foods could include round ingredients such as lentils, cakes and breads (reminiscent of coins or the circle of life); greens such as collards or cabbage (supposedly representing money); rice or pomegranates (fertility); and noodles (longevity).

My friend's plan reminded me of hoppin' John, a New Year's tradition served for luck in the American South. Black-eyed peas are stewed with salt pork or a ham hock and mixed with rice and a good dash of hot sauce. Some people add collard greens, cooked down until silky.

Recipes for hoppin' John are pretty straightforward, but I was in the mood for something crunchier, fresher and lighter — though still lucky.

Digging through my extensive cookbook collection for a different way to cook up a big bowl of good fortune, I found inspiration in a black-eyed pea salad recipe. 
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Black-eyed peas

I swapped in diced celery root and kale from my CSA share for the celery and spinach in the recipe. (Unsheathing the meat of a celery root from beneath its whorled, hairy skin is a challenge, but I enjoy the game of figuring out good places to sub it for celery in recipes.) I also added some completely optional, finely chopped Vermont ham.

Dressed with the recipe's original tangy, hot pepper sauce-zinged dressing made with Vermont buttermilk and cider vinegar, the substantial salad made for a deliciously local homage to a southern tradition.

Whatever is on your plate at the start of 2021, here's wishing you a big serving of good luck this year.

Black-Eyed Pea, Kale and Celery Root Salad

Serves 4 as a main dish with crusty bread.
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1½ teaspoons spicy brown or Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ⅛ teaspoon hot pepper sauce, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste (if using ham, go light on the salt and then add more at the end if needed)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup peeled, finely diced celery root (sub: thinly sliced celery)
  • 2 packed cups thinly ribboned kale leaves, stems removed (sub: spinach; see note in directions)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 cup finely diced cooked ham, optional
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed, or about 3 cups cooked from dry

  1. In a medium serving bowl, whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, mustard, cider vinegar, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper.
  2. Stir in red onion, celery root, kale, parsley and ham, if using. Toss well to coat.
  3. Add black-eyed peas and toss gently to combine. Taste and add more salt, pepper or hot sauce as desired.
  4. Can be refrigerated for several hours before serving. If using spinach, wait to add the greens right before serving.
Source: loosely adapted from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger (Taunton Press, 2008)
Got cooking questions? Email pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.