BRADENTON -- Ericka Dow, 39, known as "Madam Librarian" in Bradenton, got her love for cooking, good food and good luck from her mother, Patty Kinder, a single mom who raised Ericka and her brother, Nick, in Tallahassee.
"We were poor," Kinder said Saturday of Dow's childhood. "I made lots of Southern vegetables, like peas, chicken and rice and chicken pot pie. I could stretch a single chicken for four meals."
Her mother's love for enticing wonderful meals out of simple foods is partly what led Dow, information services supervisor at the Manatee County Central Library, to create a black-eyed pea salsa Saturday in her role as December Foodie at the Bradenton Farmer's Market.
"Black-eyed peas is a traditional thing for good luck for New Year's," Dow said. "You can get your good luck by making Hoppin' John, which is black-eyed peas and rice, but I wanted to do an appetizer that you can make quickly and still get your good luck."
On Saturday, Dow joined a monthly tradition where a non-chef has the honor of buying ingredients at the Farmer's Market and making a dish for market guests to sample.
"Very fresh, very original, very tasty," Laura Roland replied as she sampled the black-eyed pea salsa, which Dow served with blue corn tortilla chips to some of the roughly 1,000
guests that the market averages on a Saturday.
Dow and her helper, Geri Kenyon, began at 9:30 a.m. by purchasing one cucumber from Sheppard Farms, one of the roughly 30 vendors at the market, which is held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays from October through May on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton.
They then bought an inky purple pepper from Norm and Kathy Whitlow, owners of Greens on the Gro in Palmetto.
From Raul Herrera, owner of G.P.A Fresh Produce, they purchased a stalk of celery, one red bell pepper, cilantro and two limes.
Dow brought red-wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and aleppo pepper with her.
"The aleppo pepper is made from dried chilis and gives you a little spicy heat, but not that much," she said.
A large baggie of black-eyed peas, the contents of three 15-ounce cans, also accompanied Dow to the market.
After chopping the produce very finely, Dow added the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and lime juice in a large bowl. She then added the peas and mixed it well.
"I would just put it over a salad and make a whole meal out of it," Roland said.
Dow adapted the recipe from,"The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays," by Ree Drummond, which is in the Manatee County library.
"Fresh, wholesome; good comfort food," said Liz D'Aste of Village of the Arts, after sampling the salsa on a chip.
"Delicious; a nice cold-bean recipe," added Anna D'Aste, Liz's sister and owner of Little Swamp Studio and Co-Op Gallery in Village of the Arts.
"Excellent," pronounced Gaetano Cannata, owner of Ortygia restaurant.
When her stint as Foodie was over at 10:30 a.m. because all her food had been gobbled up, Dow said she felt she had done a good job.
"It was great; a lot of fun," Dow said. "I think it's important to pick a recipe that will appeal to a lot of people."
The dish costs less than $10 to prepare, she added.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.