Poppy-Seed Dressing

ImageI would like to tell a story of a dressing designed for fruit. Where it originated I have no idea. I remember having it served to me in New York so many years ago I hate to recall. Rumors extend hither and yon that I created it. I hasten to deny this, but I did popularize it when i realized that on the best grapefruit in the whole wide world (Texas grapefruit) it was the most delectable dressing imaginable. Today there is hardly a restaurant or home in Texas that dose not have some kind of poppy-seed dressing. The recipe I use has been in demand to the point of being ludicrous and, strange as it may seem, the men like it — a few even put  it on their potatoes. so her it is! – Helen Corbitt


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • t teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons onion juice
  • 2 cups salad oil — but never olive (I use Wesson)
  • 3 Tablespoons poppy seeds.


  1. Mix sugar, mustard, salt and sugar.
  2. Add onion juice and stir in thoroughly
  3. Add oil slowly, beating constantly and continue to beat until thick.
  4. Add poppy seeds and beat for a few minutes.
  5. Store in a cool place or the refrigerator, but not near the freezing coil

Cook’s Notes

It is easier and better to make with an electric miser or blender, using medium speed, but if your endurance is good you may make it by hand using a rotary beater. The onion juice is obtained by grating a large white onion on the fine side of a grater,or putting it in an electric blender, then straining. (Prepare to weep in either case.) If the dressing separates pour off the clear part and start all over, adding the poppy-seed mixture slowly, but it will not separate unless it becomes too cold or too hot. It is delicious on fruit salads of any kind, but has a special affinity for grapefruit, and in combinations where grapefruit is present. One of my most popular buffet salads at the Houston Country Club, where I was manager, was finely shredded red cabbage, thinly sliced avocados and halves of fresh grapes with poppy-seed dressing, but then as I said before, poppy-seed dressing fans line in on anything.


Hellen Corbitt’s Texas Caviar


Texas Caviar is simply a jazzed-up version of black-eyed peas – a marinated, make-ahead salad that can be eaten with a fork or scooped up in a tortilla chip. This dish sometimes is known as “pickled black-eyed peas.” It was popularized by Helen Corbitt, the famed 1950s food consultant and cookbook author, who directed food service at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. When she first arrived in Texas from New York, black-eyed peas were not on her culinary radar. But Ms. Corbitt discovered that even wealthy Texans loved the humble legume. So she tried something different: She pickled the peas in a vinaigrette marinade and served them for New Year’s Eve at the Houston Country Club. Only later, when she took her pickled black-eyed peas to Austin’s Driskill Hotel, did the dish get the nickname of Texas Caviar. In case you didn’t know it, the East Texas town of Athens has a proud history as the Black-Eyed Pea Capital of the World. Though it’s no longer producing them in record numbers, Athens still throws a Black-Eyed Pea Jamboree each year. Midsummer is peak harvest season for “Athens cowpeas.” So although black-eyed peas are traditional at New Year’s in Texas, this salad would be just as appropriate for an Independence Day picnic.

Marinated Black-Eyed Pea Salad (Texas Caviar)


  • 4 cups black-eyed peas, cooked
  • 1 cup celery, finely sliced
  • 4 ounces green chiles, chopped
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • ½ cup purple onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½  cups Italian dressing, or enough to cover peas
  • Red cabbage leaves, for garnish
  • Minced green onion tops, for garnish


  1. In large glass bowl, combine all ingredients except garnish, stirring to mix well. If liquid does not cover peas in bowl, add a little more dressing.
  2. Marinate, covered, in refrigerator for 24 hours. Drain excess salad dressing, and spoon salad onto a shallow bowl lined with red cabbage leaves. Garnish with green onion tops.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: This salad refrigerates well for a week.