Crunchy Pea Salad


I am an American. Born and raised. But I’ve never been a big fan of American food. I just wasn’t raised on it. In fact, I can remember the times that I was subjected to traditional American dishes after I left home, like beanie weenies, jello salad, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and poppy seed dressing. Vividly. The list is actually very long, I just don’t want to make anyone feel defensive about the kind of food on which he/she was possibly raised. I was just raised differently. That’s why I wrote the post entitled On Being a Food Snob.

For meals we enjoyed fish in fermented black bean sauce, coulibiac, duck a l’orange, and soufflés. For years my birthday meal request was brains in a cream sauce, served in puff pastry cups. When I had chicken pox, my mother made me Chinese chicken lollipops and crème caramel. She was raised in France, knew no other way to manage meals. She shopped often, chose what was in season, and made everything from scratch. And as you can tell, she really embraced global cuisines as well.

It was years before I realized mayonnaise came in a jar. Frozen food, fast food and cokes? Never. I had my first fast food burger at the age of 24. Another great memory! (not)

So I truly come by my food snobbiness naturally.

Years ago I left behind a friend in California when I moved to the Midwest after getting married. I’ve only visited her once in 32 years, which is quite sad.

Way back then she had a young family that I adored, and I was often invited for dinner. Spaghetti was a big involved meal for her, even though she bought the sauce in a jar, the Parmesan in the green carton, and the garlic bread in a foil wrapper. But it was fine. I loved being at her beautiful house with her family, which was way more important than the food on the table. And besides, she always served drinks.

Jeanne actually inspired me a lot, although I didn’t really realize it back then. I was quite young, ten years younger than her, and had no immediate plans on marrying and having children. Plus I was quite happy being a professional. But she was a wonderful mother and unconsciously I learned from her. Just not from her cooking. Oh, and she was the one who bought me my first fast food burger!

One day, however, she served a salad called crunchy pea salad. She had gotten the recipe out of one of her Junior League cookbooks*. I am not going to say anything about those cookbooks, with plastic bindings and recipes like Aunt Susan’s Favorite Cake and Velveeta Rotel Dip. I’ve probably already lost followers from my anti-American food comments.

But this salad was great! And really unique!!! And to this day I’ve kept the recipe, and have actually made it a few times. I’ve never heard of it elsewhere, or seen it on a blog, but I suspect it’s fairly well known considering the source.

The ingredients are wonderful. Peas, bacon, cashews, and sour cream, which all go together beautifully. It’s a great room temperature salad to serve at a picnic, or garden buffet, or even a brunch.

So thank you Jeanne for this recipe. And it’s a good reminder to stay in touch with old friends, and those who have moved away.

Crunchy Pea Salad

1 – 16 ounce package petite peas, thawed
8 ounces diced bacon
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 cup salted and roasted cashews
1 cup sour cream
Approximately 1/3 cup vinaigrette, see below

Place the thawed peas over paper towels in a bowl and set aside.

Crisply fry the bacon bits and drain well on paper towels; set aside to cool.

Have your celery and green onions prepared and ready. I’d honor the 1/4 cup of green onions. This salad is mild, and you don’t want it too oniony, especially if you have strong-flavored green onions.

Since I didn’t have roasted and salted cashews, I actually roasted mine with some salt in the leftover bacon grease. I must say, they almost disappeared before I could put the salad together.
For the vinaigrette, I used a basic recipe as follows:

1/2 cup sherry vinegar, but apple cider will work just as well
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 small cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend everything together well. This recipe makes more than you need for the salad, so keep the leftover vinaigrette in a jar and refrigerate.

I blended about half of the sour cream along with the 1/3 cup vinaigrette for the salad, just to make it incorporate better. The vinaigrette and all of the sour cream could be whisked all together in the bowl before adding the other ingredients, as well.

To assemble the salad, remove the paper towels from the bowl with the peas. Add the celery and green onions.
Add the remainder of the sour cream, if you haven’t already.
Gently stir to mix well. Taste for seasoning; I added at least one teaspoon of salt.
Normally, the bacon and the cashews would be included in the salad, but for the sake of photography, I sprinkled them both on top.

This is what the salad is supposed to look like. Not really as pretty, although equally delicious!
Don’t be shy about the amount of sour cream in this recipe. It adds creaminess, of course, but also a wonderful tang.

note: If you can, add the cashews at the last minute. If you have leftover crunchy pea salad that contains cashews, they will soften, and nothing will really be crunchy in the salad.

* Before you even think about writing a comment defending Junior League cookbooks of America, please know that I’ve actually been featured in one, and I’m very proud of that fact. Over the years, the cookbooks have really evolved, and now have normal bindings, gorgeous photos, and creative recipes. Below is a blurb from a write-up about me, in Cooking by the Boot Straps, published in the town where I live.



21 thoughts on “Crunchy Pea Salad

  1. I’ve never belonged to a Junior League, but I’ve seen this recipe around for years. Now, I think I’ll actually make it…thanks for the reminder.

  2. Mimi, I really enjoyed this post – it was so funny hearing about your friend and her jarred ‘feasts’. The story made me think of my mum who, bless her, doesn’t exactly enjoy cooking and gets into quite a flap making the simplest of things. I can’t believe your birthday treat meal was brains! Haha! Fabulous!
    Love the salad … so many complimentary flavours in there. I guess if you were worried about the amount of sour cream you could also substitute in a little Greek yoghurt. :-)

    • Glad you enjoyed the story! Yes, I had a unique upbringing, food wise!!!
      You certainly could use Greek yogurt, it’s just not as tangy. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This does sound like a unique use of peas– I really want to make this salad! And p.s. Having high standards is not the same thing as being a snob. : )

  4. The salad sounds wonderful! I’ll have to try it out as it looks perfect for summer. I too was not brought up on traditional American food. We had everything homemade and the cuisine was quite global as well. But I did have my first fast food burger before I was 24…might have I been 12 or 13?

  5. I always have bags of baby peas in my freezer, they’re so versatile. Never thought to use them in a salad though. .I grew up with an Italian mother who always insisted on using the freshest seasonal produce with one exception those snap frozen peas. Perhaps it was because the season for fresh peas was so short, I’ll have to ask her. One thing I do know is that the way my family now lives and eats has definitely been directly influenced by my mother’s attitude to food.

  6. For five years I was a member of JWL in Enid, OK before being whisked away to Sidney, NE. I have this cookbook and I’ve made this recipe numerous times. It is always a favorite.

  7. What a good salad and a great story! I concur about the velveeta. Never knew what the stuff was until I visited my future husband’s home way back when and saw his mom making some dip with Velveeta. It made me have second thoughts-but not for long!

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