Sunday, February 21, 2010

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato and Poached Pears with Ricotta

Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day is one cookbook that I end up turning to again and again. My mom bought the cookbook for me at the height of my obsession with Martha Stewart. Foster, a friend of Stewart’s, signed the cover page, “For Meghan—Martha says hello. Enjoy!” Looking back, it is kind of silly but I love it.

Foster owns two local gourmet markets with great ambiance and amazing brunch and lunch menus. Foster’s is the perfect place for a casual Sunday brunch with friends. I stop in way more than my limited college budget allows.

The cookbook has excellent recipes for using farmers market produce. She favors simple, highly adaptable dishes that rely on fresh, seasonal ingredients for flavor. Some of her recipes even list seasonal variations to experiment with.

I have made Foster’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese several times and had a craving for it the other day. I could not find a decent butternut squash at the farmers market so I substituted sweet potatoes. Many of her recipes list variations and suggest creative ways to use leftovers.

I have been devouring pears lately and went overboard at the grocery store the other day, buying more red Anjou pears than I could possibly eat. I decided to make a dessert with my surplus and poached the pears. I love the combination of ricotta and pears so I served them over a fresh spoonful of the still-warm cheese.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato and Goat Feta

Adapted from Sara Foster

2 sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups fresh or frozen black-eyed peas

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced

1 jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded, and diced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves

2 ounces goat milk feta cheese

1 bunch Arugula

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil

Scatter the sweet potato cubes in one layer on a baking sheet with sides. Drizzle the cubes with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes in a 400ºF oven, until the sweet potatoes are brown around the edges and tender when pierced with a fork, stirring the pieces periodically so they brown evenly. Allow it to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the black-eyed peas in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover by 3 inches. Salt the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the peas are tender but still firm. Drain in a colander, rinse under cool water and drain thoroughly.

Stir the vinegar, honey, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until all is incorporated.

Gently scrape the warm sweet potato cubes into a large mixing bowl. Add the peas, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, marjoram, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and toss gently. Season with additional salt, pepper, or vinaigrette to taste. Layer salad on bed of Arugula and sprinkle with crumbled feta.

Ricotta and Poached Pears

Adapted from David Lebovitz


2 quarts whole milk

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Bring the milk, yogurt, vinegar and salt to a boil in a large pot. Gently boil for one to two minutes, until the milk is curdled. Pour the milk mixture into the strainer lined with cheesecloth and set over a deep bowl. Let drain for 15 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the curds and squeeze gently to extract any excess liquid.


4 cups water 

1 1/3 cup sugar

4 Anjou pears; peeled, cored, and quartered

1 vanilla bean

In a large saucepan, heat the water, vanilla and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Slide in the pears. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.


  1. Mmm...Thanks to you, I'm going to go and buy some sweet potatoes and peppers today on my trip to Trader Joe's (or maybe Whole Foods). Surprisingly, I actually have all of the other ingredients (or close enough) to make this. Bonus: this is a great amount of food for me + leftovers.