This recipe is a lightened interpretation of Hastings' summer staple. For his original recipe, check out Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook. Use whatever varieties of colorful tomatoes you find at your local market. Hastings likes to use red beefsteak, yellow globe, and green zebra tomatoes. Cherokee purple tomatoes add unique flavor and color to the plate, if you can find them. Outside of the South, black-eyed peas are a fine sub for lady peas. Okra is a regional delicacy that's optional in this dish. If you omit it from the recipe, the salad is a mere 207 calories with 3.6 grams saturated fat and 323 milligrams sodium.
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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