People often ask me what my favorite food is, and I find it an incredibly difficult question to answer. There are so many, and it changes as I experience new things. But I will say that field peas are at the top of the list. In the summer, I buy all the little baggies at the farmers market and freeze some for year-round enjoyment but eat most of them right away. My Sunday night supper in summer is invariably field peas and corn (which is also on my list). Usually, a simple pot of peas cooked with bacon or side meat or whatever I have to hand and corn on the cob or kernels sauteed or creamed. But when I cook for company, I like to push the boat out a little. And in the high heat of peak Southern summer, cold salads are a welcome meal. Recently, I was preparing some dishes for a gathering after a farmers market and I knew I wanted to do something with field peas and something with corn but I didn’t have too much else hand, so I threw together the peas and corn and added a simple vinaigrette made with buttermilk. How Southern is that? It was delicious, but looked a little bland, so I tried again, adding chopped peppers and colorful onions and small tomatoes. But you know what, it was too much and took away from the brilliance of the fresh peas and the sweet corn. With so many ingredients, nothing really shone through. I went back to the original, and it really is the best.
I use the smallest types of field peas for this, often called cream or creamer peas. Lady peas and white acre peas are popular types. You can use other field peas certainly – zippers would be particularly good, or purple hull. The cooking time will vary for larger peas. Any variety of corn works too, though I am partial to peaches and cream with its yellow and white particolor kernel. I suggest a good whole buttermilk rather than a low fat version. You just don’t get that same tangy richness from thinner versions. Use it also to make cornbread which would be lovely with this salad!
Creamer Pea and Corn Salad with Buttermilk Vinaigrette
- For the Salad
2 cups small fresh field peas (creamer peas, lady peas, white acre)
3 cobs of fresh corn
2 cloves garlic
6 green onions
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- For the Vinaigrette
¼ cup whole buttermilk
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon kosher
½ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon yellow mustard powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
- For the Salad
- Put the field peas in a medium saucepan. Cut the kernels from the corn into a bowl and set the kernels aside. Snap two of the cobs in half and add them to the pot with the peas. Cut about three inches of green tops from all the green onions and add to the pot with the garlic cloves. Add water to cover by about three times the volume. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the peas are tender, but with a little bite, about 45 minutes to an hour (or more, depending on the size and freshness of your peas) Add the corn kernels to the pot and cook a further 15 minutes.
- Drain the peas and corn in a sieve, the remove the corn cobs, green onion tops and garlic cloves with tongs and discard. Put the peas and corn back into the rinsed out pot. Finely chop the white and lightest green parts of the green onions and add them to the peas and corn, stirring to distribute them throughout. Leave to cool completely. When cool, toss through the chopped parsley and the vinaigrette. Refrigerate for at least an hour to chill and let the flavors meld, but overnight is fine.
- For the Vinaigrette
- Put all the ingredients in a mason jar with a tight lid and shake vigorously to combine. Pour over the peas and corn and stir through.