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BLACK-EYED PEAS BRING LUCK AND REQUESTS FOR MORE

You say peas, I think black-eyed. Is there any other kind? Not for this Southern gal. That's especially true when eating peas makes all the difference for good luck in the New Year. Trouble is, I have a heck of a time convincing my family of the importance of these little spotted jewels.

For years now I've cooked a cauldron of dried peas for the New Year, just as my mother does and as my grandmother did before her. Then I, alone, spend the whole first week of the New Year eating peas every day to get rid of them.

Beverly (who's been dressing up traditional Southern New Year's foods to sneak past her Northern-born husband) suggested that I simply camouflage the peas. We both serve several different bean and pea salads that our families ask for regularly. So to meet the pea quota in time, we've capitalized on that idea to come up with a black-eyed pea salad.

This salad is hearty enough to make an entree for New Year's lunch, or can serve as a suitable side dish. The dressing is a vinaigrette based on vegetable juice that perfectly complements the peas' meaty flavor.

Now I don't have to worry that my family will be lacking luck on New Year's Day, and neither do you.

GOOD LUCK SALAD

2 cans (15 ounces each) black-eye peas (packed without pork)

1 cup frozen yellow corn

2 stalks celery (for about 3/4 cup diced)

1 medium red bell pepper (for 1 cup diced)

1/2 pound thinly sliced Virginia-baked deli ham (for 1 1/2 cups chopped)

1/2 small onion

1/3 cup vegetable juice, such as V8

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas. Pour the corn into a colander and rinse under cool tap water until almost defrosted, about 2 minutes. Set aside to drain.

Rinse the celery, cut it into 1/4 -inch dice and add it to the bowl. Seed the bell pepper and cut it into 1/4 -inch dice. Add it to the bowl. Add the corn.

Coarsely chop the ham into bite-size pieces and add them to the bowl. Stir well to blend the salad.

To make the dressing: Peel the onion half and cut it into quarters. Drop through the hole in the blender lid onto the moving blade. Finely chop, about 30 seconds. Stop the motor and scrape down the sides if necessary. Add the vegetable juice, vinegar, oil, mustard and black pepper. Process just to mix well, 30 seconds.

Pour the dressing over the salad and stir well to mix. Serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve. Covered and refrigerated, leftovers can be stored for 3 days. Serves 8.

Approximate values per serving: 171 calories (20 percent from fat), 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 14 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams dietary fiber, 604 milligrams sodium.

Send us desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016; or e-mail: ddinnersaol.com.

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