Great Food Nourishes “The Help”

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Are you planning to see “The Help” this week? It opens today, and it’s based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel about the lives of middle-class white women and the black women who work for them in Jackson, Miss., in 1962. Lia and I both read it last summer and loved it. (I might play hooky and catch a matinee this afternoon – shhh, don’t tell Lia!)

the-helpOf course, when it comes to anything about the Deep South, food plays an important role in the movie – especially Minny’s famous chocolate pie. And Southern fare has a special place in our hearts at Nourish Network. Lia and I may both be California girls – Lia by choice and me by birth – but we’ve each done a turn in the South that left its mark on our palates. Lia went to college at Tulane in New Orleans, and I spent six years in Alabama.

So, in honor of “The Help,” we’re sharing some of our nourishing tastes of the South:


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Mississippi Caviar with Black-Eyed Peas & Cider Vinaigrette

I learned about Mississippi caviar, in which black-eyed peas stand in for fish roe, when I lived in the South. Sometimes it’s called Texas caviar, but I’ll leave it to those states to duke it out for naming rights. This zesty, summery side dish comes together in a flash when you use steamed, ready-to-eat blacked-eyed peas, and I’ve added precooked brown rice to introduce a little whole grain to the mix. You can use other beans or legumes, or even canned beans, in place of the peas. Mississippi caviar works as a light supper or as a side dish with grilled fare. Leftovers are even tastier, since the flavors continue to develop with time.

Mississippi Caviar with Black-Eyed Peas & Cider Vinaigrette


Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 6-8 as a main dish, 10-12 as an appetizer

Mississippi Caviar with Black-Eyed Peas & Cider Vinaigrette


  1. 3 cups (2 [11-ounce] packages) steamed, ready-to-eat black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  2. 1 cup precooked brown rice, thawed according to package directions
  3. 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (1 ear)
  4. 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  5. 1 tomato, seeded and finely chopped
  6. 1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
  7. 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  8. Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  9. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  10. 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  11. 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  12. 1 garlic clove, minced
  13. Bibb lettuce leaves (optional)


Combine first 7 ingredients in a serving bowl. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic and an additional pinch of salt and pepper. Pour over pea mixture, and toss to combine. Serve over lettuce leaves, if desired.