Vertamae Grosvenor was a national treasure. I learned about her from her PBS program in the late 1990s, “America’s Family Kitchen,” when I was really getting going with my cooking and saving every interesting recipe I saw. Her show was about the food of the South Carolina Low Country, and I remember seeing her standing in the studio kitchen, smiling and speaking with authenticity about the culture, flavors, and ingredients.
In the days before everything was put on the internet, I had to scribble down the recipe quickly as she said it on air. That’s why it’s in the step-by-step format below. Based on a couple of versions I’ve seen online, I think I got it mostly right — but regardless, the recipe I wrote down is delicious and one of my favorite healthy dishes.
Vertamae died in 2016. She worked for many years with NPR, and they wrote a beautiful tribute describing her fascinating life. The delicious food she wrote and spoke about was only part of the cultural legacy she left behind.
Mix in a large bowl:
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced yellow pepper
1/2 cup diced orange pepper
Add, a cup at a time:
6 cups canned black-eyed peas, drained (4 15-oz. cans)
Mix gently so as not to bruise the peas. Then mix in:
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped scallions/salad onions (I tend to omit this)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. basil, cut or torn into large pieces
Salt to taste (generously is OK)
1/2 cup Italian dressing (I substitute red wine vinegar and olive oil)
Marinate overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with a sprig of basil and 1-inch pepper rings.