When she lived in Tampa, daughter Elizabeth was introduced to “Alabama Caviar” by her southern friend Pam, who made it for TV football game days. Everyone happily gobbled it up with big bowls of tortilla chips. With the exception of the chips, (who can eat just one?) it’s a pretty healthful dip, loaded with high-protein beans and chopped fresh vegetables.
The recipe originated at a restaurant in Alabama called Lulu’s, owned by singer Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lucy. At Lulu’s they make it daily in 20-gallon tubs because, although it’s been on the menu since Lulu’s opened more than 12 years ago, Alabama Caviar remains one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Home cooks throughout the South have made it a legendary appetizer for TV game-day fare, albeit with regional variations such as adding corn, Rotel Tomatoes, jalapeños, you-name-it.
Lulu’s mixes up a balsamic vinaigrette for their caviar, but according to every home recipe I’ve found online, Southerners prefer to use bottled Italian salad dressing. I’ve given the original Balsamic recipe below, but I’ve also given a reduced-fat recipe that I found on the back of Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix in which you substitute 1/4 cup water for half of the olive oil called for.
If you really want to be authentic, you’ll pitch the tortilla chips (too high in WW SmartPoints anyway) and serve your caviar with Southern-style bruschetta (aka saltines). Now, are you ready for some football?
3 (15-oz.) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Chopped pickled jalapeño peppers to taste (optional, but I added lots)
Dressing* (Reduced-fat directions given below)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine caviar ingredients in a large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients and pour over caviar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For best results, allow to marinate from 12 to 24 hours before serving.
Serve with tortilla chips or Southern-style bruschetta (saltines)
* Southern home cooks traditionally use bottled Italian Dressing. Cooks Illustrated gives Good Seasons Viva Italian Dressing their highest marks for bottled salad dressing. Good Seasons calls this dressing “lively and rustic,” but I’d say it’s slightly sweet and tangy and perfect for this caviar, especially with a bit of pickled jalapeño tossed in.
If you’re looking to cut fat, calories and WW SmartPoints, use this reduced-fat recipe from the back of a package of Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix: mix one Good Seasons package with 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. water and 1/4 cup olive oil. This makes a total of 16 Tbsp. of dressing, each Tbsp. is 1 WW SP.
SmartPoints per serving: 3 (with reduced-fat dressing)