Thursday, February 14, 2013

When Life Gives You Beans, Make Bean Salad

Nothing makes me feel happier and more secure than cleaning out my pantry cupboards and reorganizing them after a Costco run. I know, I know...I'm a cheap date, if you don't count the Costco expenditure. I often find items I've forgotten I'd purchased - 3 jars of instant espresso? Really? And honey? Don't get me started on the vinegar and oil!

I've got to device some recipes that call for instant espresso and honey.
Pot roast, perhaps?

It was the accumulation of black beans that really got to me, though. I had 3 cans from Trader Joe's and had no need for them in coming weeks. I bought an 8-pack of garbanzos because I have hummus on about 4 upcoming catering menus. I guess I just automatically grabbed the black beans. If white cannellinis had been available, I would've probably grabbed them as well. Beans, are after, a great source of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol, and is high in protein, complex carbs and iron.

According to Wikipedia, "Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. Broad beans, also called fava beans, in their wild state the size of a small fingernail, were gathered in Afghanistan and the Himalayan foothills.[2] In a form improved from naturally occurring types, they were grown in Thailand since the early seventh millennium BCE, predating ceramics.[3] They were deposited with the dead in ancient Egypt. Not until the second millennium BC did cultivated, large-seeded broad beans appear in the Aegean, Iberia and transalpine Europe.[4] In the Iliad (late-8th century) is a passing mention of beans and chickpeas cast on the threshing floor.[5] 

The oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE.[6]"

Beans are also one of the "Three Sisters" of New World Cooking, completing the trio of maize, or corn, and squash. Read more about squash in this Nutmeg's Spice of Life post.

Though purests may insist on always cooking with dried beans, the ease and quality of canned beans makes them a great pantry staple to always have on hand, to which my pantry can certainly attest.

I've got room for more beans!
So, my overflowing cupboard of legumes beckoned me. It was getting close to lunch. The perfect way to diminish my beans count and use up a few other odds and ends! Here's any easy way to always have a high protein, low fat salad or side dish stored in the fridge.

 Next I'll have to figure out how to use the 4 jars of Hoisin sauce and the canned diced jalapenos!

Quick and Easy Bean Salad
by Margie MacKenzie, Nutmeg Kitchens
Black Bean Salad with Avocados & Oregano

I recommend playing with the flavors and additions and the amounts you use. If you like your beans hot, by all means add cayenne and red pepper flakes along with hot sauce. For Mediterranean flair, sub thyme and/or rosemary for the cumin and chili powder and add capers and olives instead of avocado. Use your imagination and plain old black beans will not disappoint! 

Basic Ingredients
- 2-3 cans of beans - black, white, garbanzo or a mix of all three would be really good - drained and rinsed
- Vinegar, lemon or lime juice, 1-2 TBS
- olive oil, 1-2 TBS
- Chili powder, to taste. I like ground chipotle. Use both if you like.
- Ground cumin, to taste
-Salt & black pepper, to taste

Additions from the pantry or fridge you may have on hand
- Green Onions, thinly sliced
- 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 fresh red pepper, or 1 jarred roasted pepper, diced
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 avocado, diced
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Fresh oregano, chopped
- Tabasco or other hot sauce
- Crumbled feta, fresh chevre or queso fresco

Toss the basic ingredients in a medium bowl, adding them to taste, adjusting them as needed so you have balanced flavors. Add your additions and gently combine. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Let the salad sit for awhile, 30-60 minutes, so all the flavors can blend. 

Serve as a salad on a bed of spring mix, as a side dish or as a  vegetarian filling for tacos or enchiladas. 

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