And Now, I Pass It To You….Cowboy Caviar

Cowboy Caviar

“basil, lettuce, rice, peanut butter, shallots, eggs, butter, Parmesan cheese, pasta, parsley, thyme, rosemary, ketchup, oatmeal, raisins, whole grain mustard, sesame oil, vanilla extract, avocados, cherries, black eyed peas, corn, cantaloupe, lime, cilantro, salmon, flatbread, goat cheese, hot dogs, hot dog buns, hummus, salsa, pancake mix, tea, ovaltine, cherry tomatoes, Nana’s jam, soy sauce, milk……..”

With a pile of cookbooks, notebooks and recipe cards spread out before me providing inspiration, I make my list of groceries that I plan on hauling to the Oregon coast for our two week vacation.  The first week to be joined by my side of the family, the second week by my sweetie’s.

“First Dinner – App-Guacamole, Dinner – Grilled salmon-tomato/shallot compote or just salt and pepper?, green salad, rice, green beans, Birthday cake for Mom. Second Dinner – App-Cowboy Caviar, Dinner – marinated flank steak, roasted potatoes, artichokes, bowl of cherries…….”

I follow that up with my list of possible dinner menus.

Bowl of Avocados

I realize that when most people go on vacation, they perhaps spend their planning days laying out the activities that they will partake in on said vacation. I, on the other hand, think of the food possibilities. I get excited by the endless options. I liken it to that of a child making her list for Christmas. The glimmer in her eyes. The hope. The anticipation. The jubilation. And the beauty of it is, I’m not alone in this. In the weeks leading up to this vacation, I receive calls from my sister, my mother, my sister-in-law, my sweetie to talk about….food. Who’s bringing what? Who’s preparing this? Who’s ordering out for that? Calls come in from shopping trips to Costco, “Just picked up a bag of those multi-grain chips we like so you don’t need to get those.” Text messages are flying back and forth from the next group coming out to the coast, “@grocery store, need anything?”

Now, of course, once we’re there we partake in all of the usual beach activities…the boogie boarding, the sand castle building, the sand boarding, the dune climbing, the tide pool investigating, the beach combing, the bike riding, the lighthouse visiting, the whale watching, the sun bathing, the book reading, the puzzle making, the game playing, the bonfire building…actually, scratch that, we don’t do the bonfire building…too cold. But through all of this, in the back of my mind is always, “When can I start preparing our next meal?


And once we’re all crammed around the table on a various assortment of chairs, we continue to share, not just the meal at hand, but also, other meals and recipes that came before. An idea on preparing mussels with curry or marinating steaks with soy sauce and mustard. How to cook clams on the grill. Other ideas for vinaigrettes. Dips for artichokes. Chocolate cakes versus vanilla. We “ooh and aah” over new dishes prepared for us. The way one family sets up a taco bar that differs from our own way yet provides inspiration. And I guess that’s what we take away from all of this is…inspiration. In sharing our food, our ideas, our recipes with one another we pass along a bit of ourselves. The bit that comes directly from our own kitchens. Our own homes.

I believe that Molly Wizenberg said this best when she wrote in her book, A Homemade Life:
“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been and who we want to be.”

Cowboy Caviar Take 2

Cowboy Caviar
Course: Appetizer
Serves: The perfect amount to accompany a bag of tortilla chips
This is one of those recipes that has circled around my neighborhood dozens of times. I requested it from my neighbor who had it passed along to her by another neighbor. Get together in our neck of the woods and this dip always shows up on an appetizer table without fail. Introduce it into a new group and you will receive emails the following day with requests for the recipe. It couldn't be simpler. It's delicious and it's pretty darn good for you. Obviously tortilla chips are its usual sidekick but I've been known to scoop it up with sliced red bell peppers or to spoon it over toast for breakfast.
  • 1 12 or 15-ounce can black eyed peas
  • 1 12 or 15-ounce can corn kernals
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • ½ c chopped tomatoes
  • ⅔ c cilantro, chopped
  • ⅔ c green onion, chopped
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ¼ c red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
Gently combine all of of the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. If possible, let sit at least a half an hour before serving so the flavors have a chance to mingle. Set it out on an appetizer table and watch it disappear. Enjoy!



  1. Ahhhhh yes, Charlie makes this on our river trips. It is always a winner.

  2. I'm delivering dinner for some new parents tomorrow and this is absolutely going to be part of the meal. Thank you!