7 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 cup small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup fresh shelled lady peas (about 6 ounces) or black-eyed peas, rinsed well and drained
1 (6-ounce) smoked ham hock
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 thyme sprig
2 cups peanut oil
6 tablespoons buttermilk, divided
2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coarse-ground cornmeal
30 whole baby okra, trimmed
3 applewood-smoked bacon slices, cooked and coarsely crumbled
6 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
6 tablespoons torn fresh basil
How to Make It
Sprinkle cut sides of tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt; drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and vinegar. Set aside.
Combine peas, ham hock, onion, and thyme in a medium saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; simmer 15 minutes or until peas are just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; drain and cool. Discard ham hock, onion, and thyme.
Clip a candy/fry thermometer onto the side of a large skillet; add 2 cups peanut oil to pan. Heat peanut oil to 350°. Place 1/4 cup buttermilk in a shallow dish. Combine flour, cornmeal, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow dish, stirring well. Dip okra in buttermilk; dredge in flour mixture. Place okra in hot oil; fry 2 minutes or until golden, making sure oil temperature remains at 350°. Remove okra using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.
Divide tomato slices evenly among 6 plates; top each serving evenly with cherry tomatoes. Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons peas over each tomato stack. Arrange 5 pieces fried okra on each serving; sprinkle evenly with bacon.
Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk, chives, and garlic in a small bowl. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and juice; stir well with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, while whisking vigorously. Stir in crème fraîche. Drizzle 2 tablespoons dressing mixture over each serving; top with 1 tablespoon basil.
I served this with CL buttermilk biscuits from November 2008. The combination was great. The salad was so much better than I expected, the flavors just melded so perfectly, even the okra, which I usually don't like very much. I used pinkeye peas from my grandmother's garden, but didn't have the ham hock, so used two slices of the raw bacon. I used sour cream instead of creme fraiche. Overall, fabulous!
Such a beautiful seasonal dish - definately company-worthy, as the colorful little bundles make each serving feel personalized. I made this recipe almost exactly as directed, but substituted a little Greek yogurt in place of the creme fraiche. I served this salad with a little sliver of CL's Herbed Ricotta Tart. It was a great pairing!
My only complaint: it was slightly time-intensive. Perhaps working with canned black eyed peas, prepared okra, and leftover bacon would speed things up a bit, but don't miss out on the dressing, as it ties it all together.
Impressive, thoughtful recipe.
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