Photo by Helana Brigman -- John Besh's recipe for the refreshing Black-eyed Pea Salad makes plenty and can be served as a side or main dish.

In December, I had the opportunity to chat with John Besh, one of my favorite local celebrity chefs. Besh is a James Beard award-winning chef and New Orleans restaurateur.

I was finally getting my hands on a copy of his 2011 cookbook, “My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking.” Besh was inspired to publish this collection of family-friendly recipes after a conversation with his wife about his children’s eating habits. With recipes like Cauliflower Mac and Cheese and Asian Chicken Salad, Besh’s cookbook re-creates some of his family’s favorite meals in easy and new ways.

I asked what recipes he would suggest readers try first.

“I’m a really big fan of this book’s recipes for soup,” he said. “Any of the soups with lots of vegetables and a good-quality stock would be great,” he added, explaining the importance of homemade ingredients and vegetables.

A flavorful base seems to be half of the battle when convincing his kids to eat healthfully.

After testing Besh’s recipes for the last six months, it is easy to see this idea in any warm or cold weather meal.

While I cannot say enough good things about Besh’s recipes for Vietnamese Noodle Soup, Creamy Lentil Soup and Southern Soup au Pistou (a hearty vegetable soup served with dollops of pesto), my favorite recipe is not a soup at all, but a delicious bean dish made with iconic New Orleans legumes, black-eyed peas.

Besh’s recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Salad (Page 176) is a vegetable-based dish that adapts his recipe for field peas with a light vinaigrette.

The dish is served cold and tossed with red onions and chives and is as filling as a bowl of hearty winter soup.

Perfect for summer, Besh’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad offers a healthful solution to eating more mindfully. And, while the recipe says it serves eight, I would argue it could serve a small army.

Each testing of this recipe lasted through several family dinners and workday lunches. As a side dish, this Black-Eyed Pea Salad easily serves 10 to 12 and takes very little time to prepare.

Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes with daily recipes at or via email at