Back in the 70’s, Mississippi Caviar a/k/a Texas Caviar, a/ka/ Alabama Caviar, etc., made its first appearance in Alabama Living. With a black-eye pea base, this dish is heavily rooted in the South. We called it a country recipe dressed up for town. We also had a warning for the Russians who were then the main producers of caviar — “Black eyes may put you out of business.” This is a great snack or starter when you’re having some people over and don’t want cheese and crackers or chips and salsa.
1 cup oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Hot sauce to taste
Parsley to taste
Pepper to Taste
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups cooked and drained black-eye peas
1 onion, thinly sliced
One small can of pitted olives
Two jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced
6 slices of bacon
Mix olive oil, garlic, vinegar, parsley, salt and hot sauce in blender. Pulse until combined. Pour over black eye peas. Add onions and pepper to taste. Marinade over night. Add olives and jalapeño peppers. Cover with crumbled bacon. Serve with crackers.
With tomato season almost here, we thought we’d share some of our favorite tomato recipes from the archives. If you’re going to be cooking this holiday weekend, grab some tomatoes and try some of these delicious dishes.
Tomato Jam #2
15 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pint vinegar (white or apple cider)
4 cups sugar
1 large onion, chopped
12 pods hot pepper, chopped
Combine all ingredients in large stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat, being careful not to scorch. Cook until thick and darkened in color. This will take several hours. Can as usual. Great on everything.
Greek Tomato and Cucumber Salad
6 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled
quartered lengthwise, and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
1 Frozen pie shell
4-6 slices bacon (depending on size), crumbled into bits
2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped
1 large-sized Vidalia onion, chopped
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise (enough to bind mixture)
Mix bacon bits, tomatoes and onions and pour into pie shell. Mix cheese and mayonnaise together and top tomato mixture completely. Bake at 350 degrees until pie crust is brown and cheese is melted.
Pierce squash several times with a fork or sharp knife. This will allow the steam to escape. Microwave for 10 minutes on high. Turn the squash over after 5 minutes and then continue cooking. Allow to stand 5-10 minutes before removing. Remove carefully. It will be hot! Cut the squash in half and discard the seeds. Use a fork to scrape the insides of the squash to form strands. Toss strands with cheeses. Then chop tomatoes and toss with squash and cheeses. Spoon squash mixture into a microwavable bowl or dish. Microwave on high for 2-4 minutes. Serves 4-6
It was the second day of river running and the hot south Alabama sun was really coming down. Lunch and shade were calling so the first mate and I searched for shade, which is hard to locate on the Tombigbee River.
Finally we found some overhanging trees and just as Joan was securing the line to a branch I heard, “Snake by the bow.” Sure enough, there he was and as quickly as my black max was lowered and started we headed for the middle of the river. Needless to say, the snake got the shade and we dined under the big eye — so much for river cruising in Southern Heartland.
All of this commenced in the fall of the year when, on a Tennessee River trip to Chattanooga, some of the Cullman boaters thought a river trip to the beach was a good idea. The closest reasonable trip for open boats in the 20-foot size was down the Black Warrior, to the Tombigbee and on to Mobile Bay. Well one-by-one they dropped by the way and so my permanent first mate, Joan, and I decided we would solo the trip. The float plan was to trailer to Tuscaloosa, cruise for three days to Orange Beach near Gulf Shores, then have our son come down so we could all trailer back.
May times, planning the event is almost as much fun as the event. So while the weather was too cold for center-console boating, I started the plan. There are many good books on our heartland rivers that will tell distances, fuel, accommodation stops, and locks. Take this type of information and the known distance your boat will travel between fuel stops and the planning is under way.
The first day we left Cullman, which is in the center of north Alabama, and drove to Tuscaloosa to lunch at Foster’s Landing. My son, Wescoat, was to drive us there then come to Orange Beach to pick us up. On Wednesday morning about 10:00 we waved goodbye and headed down the Black Warrior to Demopolis. It was an easy, laid-back day on the river of about 105 miles and one lock. We arrived at Demopolis Yacht Marina about 4 p.m. and checked into the motel.
Demopolis has an outstanding facility with motel and eating within easy walking distance. We decided to eat at a local Italian place, which was one-half mile away, but there is a restaurant on the premises which is very good. Early the next morning we departed on the Tombigbee for Lady’s Landing. The Black Warrior and the Tenn-Tom form the Tombigbee at Demopolis. This second day was about 190 miles, two locks, and one snake.
We arrived at Lady’s Landing about 4:30 p.m. and were greeted by Guy’s goats on the pier. Lady’s Landing is not large or fancy but the owners, Guy and Joyce are most accommodating. Joyce drove us into Jackson where we stayed at the Jackson Motel and ate at the Jackson Steakhouse. The next morning Joyce woke us up at 6:00 a.m.. We picked up a biscuit on the way to the landing and had to almost share it with the goats before departing for the beach.
Before casting off, Guy told us about reports of much drift in the Mobile River and recommended that at Mile 40, we take the Tensaw River. This would be pretty, as well as quicker and put us on the east side of Mobile Bay. So at Mile 40 just aft of a north bound tow, we turned to port and entered the Tensaw River.
Well the Tensaw is only used by locals and fishermen. Joan and I almost turned around when the depth got to 6 feet and narrowed. It was so pretty and peaceful though, that we kept going and finally saw a cabin, then civilization. For a few minutes, we had thought we were Louis and Clark.
As the river widened and the banks began to be marshy instead of dense vegetation, we knew Mobile Bay was close. After two and one half days on the river, Mobile Bay is huge. This was the first time we unfolded charts as we cruised along the eastern shore.
Joan turned out to be an excellent navigator and the only bobble of the trip was we turned up Bon Secour River instead of Portage Creek. This was easily corrected and we returned to the correct route to Orange Beach and the Orange Beach Marina. With the expanse of bays and the unknown effect of the tides, we kept to the charted channel and found our way. We knew we had made it when we saw the Perdido Pass Bridge. We stayed at a condominium with piers within sight of Orange Beach Marina, another outstanding facility for boats.
Wescoat came down in the Suburban and we played in the gulf and salt water bays for two days. Because I was raised at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, there is nothing like the beach and salt water for me. Of course we ate all the seafood we could hold and thoroughly enjoyed Orange Beach. But all good things must come to an end, so we put the Whaler back on the trailer, flushed the motor, washed the boat and packed for the return trip home.
I am sure that many people think three days and almost 400 miles in a 19-foot Boston Whaler with a 150 hp outboard motor is just going too far. But outboards are very reliable and with the many books and publications, it is a fun cruise. I learned that up-to-date charts of the salt waters are a must. Add hats, sunscreen, a little food, and an enjoyable first mate… and there just ain’t nothing like it.
We are so fortunate in the South to have so much of our nation’s rivers and lakes. All you have to have is the “want to.”
We close chicken salad week with a recipe from our “Cook of the Month,” Ernestine Pace. Ernestine doesn’t remember how long she’s been making her Ginger Chicken Salad, but she knows what inspired her to add blueberries. “My brother grows blueberries, and they are just so good in it.” The sweetness of the ripe berries plays off the zip of the lemon and the crunch of the almonds. And it’s the title ingredient that truly sets it apart. “That ginger really makes it, I think,” Ernestine said. “It’s not too strong, and some people can’t really put their finger on what it is, but it just brings something extra that makes it really refreshing and perfect for spring and summer.”
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1½ cups fresh blueberries
1 cup seedless green or red grapes
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, combine chicken, blueberries, celery, grapes and almonds. In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over chicken. This salad is good served with cantaloupes, served on a bed of lettuce or served in a Pita pocket.
Buffalo Chicken Salad is great for sandwiches and wraps. The spicy chicken, the cool ranch, and the creamy cheese combined with your bread or wrap of choice make for a great brown-bag lunch. Recipe submitted by reader Rebecca Hullett from Sand Mountain Electrical Cooperative.
4 cups shredded chicken, cooked
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
½ cup ranch dressing
¾-1 cup buffalo wing sauce
1 cup shredded cheese
¾ cup chopped celery
Mix the chicken and cream cheese together first, stirring until the cream cheese is smooth throughout the mixture. Stir in all other ingredients until evenly combined.
This variation of chicken salad uses grilled chicken and blue cheese to add a smoky, sharp flavor for a unique sandwich or cracker spread. Thanks to Kirk Vantrease of Cullman, Alabama, for the submission.
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 golden delicious apple
¼ cup red seedless grapes
1 celery stick
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup mayo
½ cup blue cheese dressing
Salt and pepper
Salt and pepper the chicken. Grill on direct heat 8 minutes per side. Set aside to rest. Chop celery and walnuts; peel, core and chop the apple and chop the grapes. In a large bowl, mix mayo and blue cheese dressing. Chop the chicken and add to the bowl along with other ingredients. Mix well, add salt and pepper to taste.
Avocado and salsa add a unique twist on chicken salad. Thanks to Pamela Martin, from Arab, Alabama for this submission.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
3/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¾ cup refrigerated salsa
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
Combine first four ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Toss in chicken and cilantro. Right before serving, add salsa and avocado. Serve with chips, pita bread or on top of salad greens.
½ cup chopped nuts (I used roasted sliced almonds, but pecans or walnuts are also good)
¼ cup regular soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
Mix all together and stir to make sure everything is coated. If you use low-sodium soy sauce, you may want to add salt. Taste and add additional curry powder to taste. (Start with a very small amount as curry can overwhelm the salad).
My relationship with chicken salad has not always been a rosy one, and while it was me who knowingly and willingly put a formidable distance between us, it wasn’t my fault alone. It was chicken salad’s own bad behavior on several occasions that really caused the rift.
For years, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. In my mind, every scoop or plate of this Southern luncheon staple was the same: the same bland, rubbery chunks of chicken, hunks of boiled egg, inch-thick slices of soggy celery smothered in copious amounts of mayonnaise (and not even good mayo, probably some low-fat pretender). That was my first experience with chicken salad. I was dismayed. “Everyone loves it. It’s served at pretty much every bridal shower, church tea and favorite small-town restaurant in the South. I must be wrong. It has to be good.”
Those were my self-shaming thoughts, so I gave it a second chance. And a third. I won’t name the cooks and eateries that almost kept me separated from chicken salad forever with their sad renditions of the classic dish. Thank goodness, after years of intentionally being apart, I gave it one more shot and finally found some good – make that great – chicken salad.
Now, I never push a plate of chicken salad away. I’ll eat chicken salad all by itself, on crackers, in a hollowed out tomato, on top of lettuce, whatever. And despite an initial fear (based on past experience) of trying anything other than the chicken salad that finally won me over, I now enjoy any and all types: basic with just salt, black pepper and mayo; with all kinds of fruits and nuts; with little or no mayo; heck, even with jalapeno and pineapple.
When it comes to chicken salad, the only thing I won’t do ever again is eat the bad stuff, the chicken salad imitators that offer only mere shadows of the tastes and textures that make all true chicken salad delicious.
But how do I avoid them? I rely on the recommendations of trusted friends when it comes to ordering chicken salad in a restaurant, but the best way to ensure lasting chicken salad bliss is to just make it for yourself. Find one that seems like it suits you and don’t be afraid to fall fully in love with a new version of an old favorite.