This is neither a fruit salad nor a vegetable salad. It’s a hybrid. Both fruit and veg. At first read, a Strawberry Snap Pea Salad may seem like a culinary survivor of the strange salad days of the last century. Waldorf comes to mind as well as its sickly-sweet cousin Ambrosia. Oh, and Jell‑O salad. I don’t know what Betty Crocker was smoking all through the Atomic Age, but gastronomically speaking, her recipes seem shockingly artificial today. Canned tomatoes, held motionless in Jell‑O, concealing a coeur caché of pickled asparagus and frozen artichoke hearts? The spirited artifice of her combinations seem so foreign that we’re left to wonder: What on earth was going on?
Well, times have changed and so have our salads. Still, I can’t help but think that there’s some inspiration to be found in Betty’s Fonduloha (pineapple, turkey, mayonnaise, curry, peanuts, coconut, and canned mandarins, put back into a pineapple shell) and her Cherry Pineapple Bologna Salad (instant mashed potatoes, pineapple-glazed bologna, and maraschino cherries served on an iceberg wedge).
The key to updating a Betty Crocker recipe is to simply remove everything that’s lurid, Technicolor, and vulgar. What we’re left with is the idea that the partnering of unexpected ingredients is worth exploring. I hope we’ve all come to a point that unusual combinations make us open our mouths before we raise our eyebrows.
Strawberry Snap Pea Salad with Calabrian Chiles
Besides, it’s not the strawberries and snap peas that make this salad so unique it’s the dressing. Which isn’t so much a vinaigrette in the traditional sense as it is a rustically chopped relish made with oil-cured black olives and spicy Calabrian chiles from Southern Italy.
Very (very) good greengrocers or farmers markets may carry fresh Calabrian chiles. Pick them up if you see them, I’m sure you’ll enjoy their unique (though blazing hot) fruity flavor. However, I’ve forgone the fresh peppers in this recipe and chosen jarred Calabrian chiles packed in oil because our gal Betty would never use fresh if she could get her hands on something from a can or a bag or a box or a jar! GREG