Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tried and Tweaked Thursday: Bean, Corn & Rice salad

Hot today again in the Buffland, but the breeze is keeping us alive. Yesterday was pure hell, and we're glad it's done. Heat has its effect on our appetites, except for the cat's-- he's as hungry as ever, but as his meals require no application of heat, I don't mind.

It's been a week of salads so far, and there's no end in sight, so I'd like to share one of my oldest, tastiest, easiest meal-worthy salads, with some chopped tomato or avocado on the side, or small quesadillas, maybe.

 Of course it makes a good, substantial second dish, too. From one of my ancient Food & Wine Magazine back issues (January 1986, from an article called "Beautiful Beans"). This is a big hit whenever I make it, and the components are usually hanging around in the pantry.

6-8 servings

3 1/2 C cooked, converted rice, cooled

1 can (16 oz) pink beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 C cooked fresh corn kernels or 1 12-oz can corn niblets

1/2 C chopped scallions

2 pickled jalapeno peppers, stemmed seeded, deribbed and minced

1/3 C safflower or corn oil**

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp (packed) brown sugar

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

 In a large bowl, combine the rice, beans, corn, scallions, and jalapenos. Toss to mix.

 In a small bowl, combine the rest of ingredients. Whisk until sugar dissolves and the mixture is well blended.

 Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, for up to 4 hours before serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to three days.

**Mari's notes-- I have made this with safflower oil, and it is good, but most I use EVOO, and it is good too, though of course doesn't look as pretty just out of the fridge! If you use it, let the salad sit out a bit first, so the oil can liquefy again.

It's a good-looking, somewhat spicy salad, more than the sum of it's parts. Also fine with just a slice or three of sliced pickled jalapenos for those that can take too much heat, and I have made it with fresh chilies of various kinds as well. 

Oh, I always use thawed, frozen corn, except when I was able to get Trader Joe's Cut Sweet Corn, a lovely crisp canned variety that tastes as good as fresh. But I did try once with niblets, and quality ones work well. Kidney or pinto beans are a decent sub, but the pink ones do seem best to me here. Enjoy!

  Peace, Mari

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Almost Instant Cool

 Knowing that all over the States, it's hot, hot, hot, means to me, you'll all know where we're coming from here, as we look towards a week that promises intense temps and crazy traffic, all at once. Independence Day and the surrounding weekends means grilling for meatists; but at my house in Kenmore NY, we're eating as coolly as possible. Pickles, sliced zuke, bread, a little cheese sometimes, dips, nuts and snacks of fresh fruit or edible whole pea pods, with mostly big salads for dinner.

 One day it might be Greek style, one day, raw taco salad. Two are more frequent repeaters: First, I like to do a veg-filled variation on the big Italian salad, an Italian-American family institution. It's a cross between anitpasto and green salad, at its best, full of different tastes and textures. Grace Parisi recently put out a recipe for her version, here, in Food & Wine magazine, and it's a good one, but mine is a stand alone meal, and needs more substance, even.

 Instead of starting with the greens, I begin filling a large bowl with various chopped, sliced or shredded vegetables, like zukes, cukes, marinated chickpeas or cannellini, halved olives, roasted or fresh peppers, pickled corn or green beans*, pepperoncini, peas, onions in some form, carrots if they're sweet, raw fennel or celery, you name it.

 If some of these have been, heat permitting, quickly charred on a griddle or hot frying pan, so much the better for textural variety. A hard peach or pear goes surprisingly well, too, just slice thin for easy chewing. When the bowl is almost halfway full, I finally stop chopping. (Note-- tomatoes, obviously, are great, but hubby-man doesn't care for them, so they go on the side, here).

 I toss all those crisp and crunchy things with mixed lettuces, shredded cabbage, spinach, escarole, endive, (tender dandelion greens if you have them but not too many), a smattering of whatever likely cheese is on hand, torn rye or Italian bread or croutons, fresh herbs, dried oregano, and maybe pine nuts.

 Then, let it sit and blend its flavors while the dressing is made: minced garlic, a pinch of onion, a dollop of dijon to help emulsify, and half each fresh lemon juice and red wine vinegar, with just enough EVOO to make a viniagrette. Season with salt and pepper, and add a combo of dried or fresh herbs-- I tend to go for fennel seed, rosemary, oregano and mint or dill, but basil and parsley, savory or thyme, are fine too. Use a premixed blend like penzey's Green Goddess or the ever-versatile Italian seasoning, if you like. Just make sure you love the taste, and that it isn't overly salty, since the pickled veg & olives in the salad will "salt it up," too. You might like a drop of honey in your dressing, and more oil-- I prefer mine thin and tart, and use as little as possible to wet the greens.

 It's worth it to toss salads about twice as much as everyone on TV seems to; the blend and flavor is improved with patient tossing.

*Keep jars of brine from store-bought pickles, and add thawed frozen corn, sliced green beans or slivered carrots to the liquid, along with a pinch of extra salt, a dash of extra vinegar, and any herb you want to add. After about a day, you've got freshly pickled veg that'll perk up any salad, is good on a sandwich, or on top of a taco. It's a good way to upcycle!

The second best salad we do lately is the super fruit and nut bowl-- greens both tender and crunchy, a honey mustard dressing (equal parts honey mustard & cider vinegar, with a little oil to taste), and every fruit and nut we have in the house, excepting, usually, bananas. Craisins and raisins, dried or fresh apricots, strawberries and plums, blueberries and watermelon, filberts and cashews or walnuts, all fit in, with maybe one single, blander veg, like cuke or yellow squash, to play off of all that sweet & tart. This is a far more filling meal than it appears, too, so don't think you have to have slices of nut bread on the side-- it's nice, as is a wedge of blue cheese and crackers-- but not needed.

 In the coming week, I'm prepping my house and yard for an ice cream social in honor of my mother's birthday next weekend, so I'll be making ice cream and maybe toppings, and hopefully, not melting, myself.

 Keep cool! Mari