Foodie Fix: Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

You may already know that I’m a huge fan of salads.  But I’m not talking about wimpy salads with chopped greens, a smattering of grated carrot, a couple of tomato wedges and a bit of bland dressing on top.

Nope.

When I say I love salads, I mean huge salads that spill out of their plates.  I like loud, brash, badass salad parties with beans and peppers and every other vegetable I can find and homemade dressing all trying (though not trying too hard) to keep the party indoors but inevitably spilling out onto the lawn, at which point the police gets called and everyone’s got some serious explaining to do.

I like my salads THAT good.

So, when I want to eat a salad that could get the police called on it for making too much of a scene, this is the first one that comes to mind.  I started making it last year as a way of using up the humongous avocados that fall from the tree in the yard.  It won’t use up an entire bowling-ball-sized avocado (the kind I’m so lucky to get!),  but it’s a pretty snazzy way of using up more normally-sized, run-of-the-mill avocados (like Hass and such) that you can get in supermarkets in North America and elsewhere.

The whole thing is filling and cheap and, apart from the avocado and cilantro,  uses ingredients that are easy to find or easy to keep around the house.  You do, however, need a halfway decent zester–that one is non-negotiable.  Just watch your manicure.

You can also add green peppers and jicama to this.  I’d add the jicama to the mix of black beans and corn, and I’d top the finished plated salad with the green pepper, but you can do whatever your hungry little heart desires.

As usual, quantities are completely flexible and negotiable; just use what you have and what you think tastes good.  This makes enough salad for me and the man to eat twice as a big side for dinner (with a soup or something like that) or for me to eat twice as a main-dish lunch.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

Invite these guys to the party:

  • 1 ripe avocado (2 if they’re tiny)
  • 1 can corn, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1-2 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped (I use culantro or shadon beni, cilantro’s stinkier and more potent cousin, because that’s what I find here in Trinidad)
  • Zest of half a large lime (or zest of a whole small lime)
  • Juice of 2-3 limes
  • Small glug (1-2 tablespoons, just eyeball it) of olive oil
  • Couple of scallions, chopped
  • Lettuce (as much as you want to cover your bowl)
  • Tomato (optional, but I like it here)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Then, tell them to please mind the neighbors while they party and keep the kegstands inside, please:

  • Mix the oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper, and cilantro together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add corn and black beans, and mix well.  This can chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat (it gets better as it sits, so it’s worth making it ahead of time if you can).
  • When you’re good and hungry, plate up your lettuce, top with as much of this mix as you want, sprinkle with scallions, and then top with cubes of avocado (and the optional tomato, if you’re using it).
  • Eat and try to keep your enthusiasm at an acceptable decibel level.

Foodie Friday: Eggplant Pasta with Tomato-Basil Sauce

This dish could also be called “what you make and serve with lots of wine when you realize both you and your husband have forgotten your own wedding anniversary.”  True story.

Not that it happened to me or anything.

So, should you find yourself forgetting a very important event and needing to impress, atone, and accompany a good bottle of wine with something delicious, this is what you want to be making.   Plus, with the impressive amount of garlic that goes into this recipe (it mellows out, I swear), you’ll want to spend time with no one but a near and dear one, love of your life or not–if for no other reason than you’ll both share the memory (and garlic haze) of this dish, and no one else will.

As usual:  don’t sweat the quantities.  I don’t.

Go hunt and gather:

  • 6 cups eggplant (about two medium beasts), cubed into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes (bigger is fine, but I prefer it small so I can get eggplant in every bite) and peeled if you want (I peel about half of it)
  • 4 cups tomatoes, diced (or two 14-oz cans of tomatoes, diced)
  • 8 cloves-1 head of garlic, minced or bashed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 box chunky-shaped pasta (I like farfalle best)
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese (or bocconcini, or a piece of a bigger log of fresh mozzarella)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. parsley, minced (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, sliced or cut into long thin strips
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

Now don the apron and get your cook on:

  • Set a large soup or pasta pot of salted water to boil.
  • While the water comes to the boil, mix the eggplant cubes with the egg until coated.  I usually start with one egg and add another if it needs more coating.
  • Heat 1/2 Tbsp. of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot but not smoking, add enough eggplant to cover the pan and let it sit and crisp for a couple of minutes.
  • Once it’s crisp, turn and allow to cook on the other side, then remove to a plate or cookie sheet lined with paper towel and giving it a sprinkle of salt.  Repeat with the rest of the eggplant.
  • Now here comes the rest of the multi-tasking, with the making of the sauce:  while the water is coming to the boil and the eggplant is frying, heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a saucepan.
  • Add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes, but don’t let it color too much.  Then add the tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper (red and black) to taste.
  • Cover and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken up a bit and all the flavors have melded.
  • When the water comes to the boil, add your pasta and cook according to the package’s instructions.   When it’s ready, reserve a cup of the boiling water and drain, then put the pasta back in the big pot.
  • Add the sauce and toss, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if needed.  Then toss with the eggplant.
  • Top with generous slivers of basil and fresh mozzarella cheese.

Serve with wine and contrition and eat with abandon–after all, it’s not every day you forget your own wedding anniversary.