Jenné Claiborne’s Harlem Caviar: Black-Eyed Pea Salad

published Feb 1, 2022
Harlem Caviar: Black-Eyed Pea Salad Recipe

Jenné Claiborne's Harlem Caviar celebrates black-eyed peas in all of their glory. This bright, delicious dish comes together in just 15 minutes.

Serves6

Prep15 minutes

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Harlem Caviar-Black Eyed Pea Salad
Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall | Food Stylist: Micah Morton | Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

In Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul, Jenné Claiborne describes her recipe for Harlem Caviar: Black-Eyed Pea Salad as evoking memories of home. Moving to New York from the South, Claiborne followed a path earlier generations paved during the Great Migration as Black Americans fled Southern domestic terrorism in large numbers in pursuit of greater opportunity to the north and west. 

The way Claiborne frames this recipe in terms of migration brings to mind the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Art and activity and glamour and possibility flourished in Harlem as Black people from the Southern states and Caribbean islands brought their unique customs from home to a place as new to them as they were to one another. Whether on the page or stage or plate, new ingredients and ideas collided with old traditions in a way that generated a cultural explosion that continues to reverberate.

On the side of tradition, black-eyed peas represent luck — just the kind of good luck you need to make your way far from home. The caviar mention evokes the decadence and lore of yesteryear, and makes that kind of special moment accessible for everyday cooks with a salad that offers elegant simplicity, brightness, and depth of flavor. The beans in this recipe — black-eyed peas are in fact beans — are dotted with diced vegetables like celery and red bell pepper that resemble little jewels in the bowl, adding texture and taste to each bite. This salad easily stands alone as a hearty main dish, but it’s a lovely side as well — consider it as a complement to a bowl of Supergreens soup, or a delicious topping for hoecakes.

Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall | Food Stylist: Micah Morton | Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

This recipe is great for those days where time is of the essence and getting food onto plates and into bellies is top priority. With two cans of black-eyed peas and pre-prepped vegetables, you can have a wonderfully balanced dish on the table in just a few minutes. And the protein-packed dish is easy to adapt to your palate — try an extra dash of hot sauce here, or an added sprinkle of fresh herbs there. 

If you have a little more time, consider slow simmering a pot of beans or the meditation of chopping vegetables meticulously, both of which can be their own kind of luxury. In the introduction to Sweet Potato Soul, Claiborne shares that throughout her life “the kitchen has represented safety, creativity and love.” In that spirit, if you can, treat yourself to savoring the process, whatever that means for you. This vegan cookbook, full of flavor and the feeling of home, will bring you many new approaches to ingredients, featuring favorites from Black American Southern culinaria perfect for the herbivores in your life.

Tester’s Notes

I love that Danielle and Gabrielle refer to the red onion, celery, and red bell pepper in this recipe as jewels. It’s incredibly fitting because their bright colors bring life to the black-eyed peas. When you start with canned beans, this salad takes only 15 minutes to make from start to finish. It’s one of those cold salads that develops more and more flavor as everything melds in the refrigerator. I left mine in overnight and the result was a bright, crunchy, and herbaceous salad that I couldn’t stop digging into. This is a side dish that I can imagine being a hit at any cookout or potluck.

—Nicole, January 2022

Harlem Caviar: Black-Eyed Pea Salad Recipe

Jenné Claiborne's Harlem Caviar celebrates black-eyed peas in all of their glory. This bright, delicious dish comes together in just 15 minutes.

Prep time 15 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 cups

    cooked black-eyed peas (equivalent to 2 cans)

  • 1/2 cup

    celery, chopped (about 1 stalk)

  • 1/4 cup

    red onion, chopped

  • 1

    medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1/4 cup)

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon

    apple cider vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons

    hot sauce (start with 1 if you aren't a spicy food fan)

  • 1 teaspoon

    maple syrup or agave syrup

  • 1 teaspoon

    fresh oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried thyme

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    sea salt

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Place the cooked black-eyed peas, celery, red onion, and peppers into a large mixing bowl.

  2. In another bowl whisk together the mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, maple syrup, oregano, thyme, and salt.

  3. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously until well blended and creamy.

  4. Pour the dressing over the black-eyed peas, and stir well to combine.

  5. Stir in the fresh parsley then serve. (This dish is best when made a few hours before or the night before serving.)

Recipe Notes

Adapted from SWEET POTATO SOUL by Jenné Claiborne. Copyright © 2018 by Jenné Claiborne. Excerpted by permission of Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.