Pierre Thiam explores flavorful foods of Senegal

"Yolele! Recipes From the Heart of Senegal," the recently published debut cookbook from Brooklyn chef and restaurateur Pierre Thiam, is a vibrant and compelling collection, and a terrific introduction to a less familiar cuisine.

Beautifully shot by Adam Bartos, Thiam's book reads like a tour guide, with recipes for popular African street food, hearty traditional stews, and dishes showcasing the country's Portuguese and Vietnamese influences, as well as the significant imprint of French colonialism (Senegal was a French colony until 1960).

The food is fascinating, adventurous and deeply flavorful. Many of the dishes first appeared on the menu of his Brooklyn restaurant, Le Grand Dakar. Spicy kebabs are marinated in a traditional spice rub before being rolled in ground peanuts; Cornish game hens are stuffed with fonio, an ancient grain that was a regional staple. An easy black-eyed pea salad (salatu niebe) is a riot of colors on the plate -- cooked peas (native to Africa), diced tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, scallions and parsley. Dressed with lime juice and olive oil -- and a minced habanero pepper -- the salad is a perfect side to grilled kebabs, or simply spooned into a lettuce cup.

Scattergood is a Times staff writer.

Black-eyed pea salad

Total time: 45 minutes, plus soaking time for the beans and marinating time for the salad

Servings: 8

Note: Adapted from "Yolele! Recipes From the Heart of Senegal" by Pierre Thiam.

1/2 pound black-eyed peas, soaked in water to cover for 1 hour

1 quart water

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 tomato, peeled, seeded and diced

1 cucumber, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Juice of 2 limes

1 habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup best-quality olive oil

8 lettuce leaves, for serving

1. In a medium saucepan, gently boil the peas in the 1 quart water until tender, about 30 minutes. Season with one-half teaspoon salt near the end of the cooking time. Strain and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, green onions, parsley, lime juice, habanero, remaining one-half teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Gradually pour in the oil while whisking the mixture together. Gently fold in the black-eyed peas. Cover and allow to sit for 1 hour so that the flavors can marry. Serve in the lettuce leaves.

Each serving: 273 calories; 7 grams protein; 21 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fiber; 19 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 231 mg. sodium.