Saveur (May 2012)
We cut into the tiny habanero, and we both started coughing.
The spice immediately seemed to be in our throats. Is it really possible that the pepper is so hot that we felt it while just chopping it?
Now we knew how John O'Connor felt.
In the new issue of Saveur, O'Connor has an essay about eating in Senegal, where he describes Scotch bonnet chile-spiked dishes so hot they're "incendiary."
We were eager to try one of the dishes. We contemplated making the Thieboudienne, or Senegalese Fish and Rice, the country's national dish.
But we opted to start our Senegalese cooking adventures with something a little closer to home: this Black-Eyed Pea Salad.
This dish is firmly rooted in Senegal, and if you tell your friends and family you're serving them an African dish, it may sound very exotic. But upon tasting it, we think it won't strike you as that unusual. It's a very fresh take on a black-eyed pea salad, and we could see this recipe right at home in a summer salads feature in any food magazine. (Tone down the spice level, and this dish wouldn't be at all out of place in Southern Living.)
It's like a CSA share in a bowl: a cucumber, fresh herbs, hot peppers, and a tomato, all chopped up, then tossed with lime juice, oil, and of course, black-eyed peas. Our habanero was hot -- very hot! But the was well balanced by the bold freshness of the lime and other ingredients.
Some dishes make you crave summer, and this is one of them. We can't wait to make it again when we have all these ingredients on hand, all at their summery best.
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 cup canola oil
5 cups cooked black-eyed peas
10 scallions, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 medium tomato, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
1 habanero or Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice and parsley. While whisking, drizzle in the canola oil to make a smooth dressing.
2. Add the black-eyed peas, scallions, bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, and chile to the dressing. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate up to overnight to marinate and meld the flavors. Serve chilled or at room temperature.