What a great time we had last night! Pamela called last week and said “Let’s have a cookout on the beach. We’ll go late afternoon on Sunday and play volleyball and dip our toes in the water. It’ll be fun!” Catherine, Elizabeth and James were still in the middle of final exams, all three in different states but all three suffering through cold, dreary weather and serious studying. Elizabeth was coming with her boyfriend, whom we hadn’t met yet. Steve’s in business school up North, cold weather and final exams were also accepted grudgingly. Cynthia was flying in from New Jersey…she didn’t have finals but we KNOW she had weather! Some PM beach time would be more than welcome. Pamela and I started making casual plans. Because a cookout on the beach HAS to be casual. It needs to be fun for all, including the planners. We pooled our dry goods resources, “Do you need me to bring cups? I have five styrofoam cups that we can use for the prosecco, a new pack of red solos for the beer and wine, and I’m serving the cake in little plastic cocktail cups. I have tons of those and I’m not going back to the store to buy cake plates.” “Perfect! I have plates. I’ll bring the burgers and dogs, I’ll get chips and salsa, oh, and I have some brats we can throw on the grill, too.” “Okay. Then I’ll make a big bowl of Mississippi Caviar and I’ll bake a cake. The girls can decorate it at the beach and we’ll surprise Jimmy with a rousing “Happy Birthday”, no presents.” “Great. I’ll bring some waters and the prosecco.” “Okay. I have five or six beers in the refrigerator and I’ll grab a couple of bottles of wine.” “‘K. What kind of cake you makin’?” “I thought a red velvet sheet cake with cream cheese and pecan icing. Everybody likes that and if I make a butter cake Jimmy’ll know it’s for his birthday.” “That’s true. All right. Catch ya on the flip flop.” “See ya.” And just like that our plan was set in motion. Sunday came and I threw our things in two big baskets, grabbed a roll of paper towels and started loading the car. I don’t keep tooth picks in the house because they’re just way too tacky so I tented the cake using five or six of those paper parasols that are used for tropical mixed drinks. I opened each little parasol, placed them strategically in the cake and covered it with tin foil. Perfect. We took off for the beach, the car reeking of freshly cut garlic from the Mississippi Caviar. And it was a beautiful late afternoon. As soon as the cars were unloaded, the kids started a lively game of volleyball and the adults popped open the prosecco and beer. We had a blast. We went down to the water’s edge and poked around. The older boys, AKA husbands and fathers, got the charcoal going, the burgers, dogs and brats were thrown on the red-hot grills and dinner was on. The Tinies decorated the cake and we surprised Uncle Jimmy singing a heartfelt “Happy Birthday”. All the cousins laughed, poked fun at each other and caught up. It was a beautiful night and, once again, we were all reminded that family is everything!
Mississippi caviar is a terrific dish for Sunday dinner, cookouts or picnics. It’s one of those dishes that gets better the following day when the flavors have married well. This recipe can be doubled or tripled easily and it can be served as a salad or as a dip with the corn chip of your choice. It can be served cold or at room temperature. Everybody loves this stuff!!
- about 4 cups canned black-eyed peas, well rinsed and drained
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced
- 2 or 3 tablespoons pickled jalapenos finely chopped, optional and to your taste
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large bowl add beans, bell pepper, scallions and jalapenos.
- In a separate smaller bowl mix the remaining ingredients well, pour over contents of larger bowl and toss until all ingredients are well blended.
- Cover and set aside.
- The salad should sit at room temperature for at least a few hours. In the refrigerator overnight is even better!
- Mix again before serving.