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.

In Which We Talk About Being Sidelined

Last week, I had a grand old time with some at-home Zumba and a less-grand time with some kitchen cleaning.  One of the two did my knee in.  I hate to admit it, but I think it was the Zumba.

Since then, I’ve been sidelined.  Sigh

I’m not in any kind of serious pain, but I can feel my knee at times when I shouldn’t be feeling my knee, if you know what I mean.  Basically, my knee feels like it was taken off me, sloshed about in a martini shaker, and returned to me with an errant cube of ice still whooshing around in there.

This is definitely not the first time my knee has forced me to simmer down–I won’t go into the blasted boring details and I’ll just say that my IT band and patellofemoral pain syndrome have kept me on my toes as long as I have been exercising.  Nor is this by any means the most annoying of the knee injuries (I think my yoga-induced knee tantrum wins the crown on that one) or the most painful (the 2007 IT Band Flare-Up has literal pain in the ass covered).

Since Thursday, when this ignominy went down, I’ve been icing and stretching and treating my knee like the sad diva that it is.  Fortunately, it feels light-years better today than it did yesterday and exponentially better than it did the day before that, so apparently my knee really likes the frozen pea bag treatment and being pampered like it’s Saudi royalty.

Still, the temptation to have a pity party of epic proportions has loomed large.  At one point, I thought of taking an ad out in the newspaper to tell the world my woe.  However, I know that is NOT the way to go and it won’t get the Diva Knee back in working order any sooner.

So, instead of moping about how sad and lonely my Nike+ avatar is looking these days and shaking my fist at the sky every time the sun makes quality pool time tempting, I’ve been focusing on the bright side, in a more introspective way than I focus on the bright side, literally, for all things sartorial.

This boils down to some pretty good pluses (in ascending order of ridiculousness):

  • Total excitement about all things running/swimming/Zumba (the kind of excitement you only get when something is totally off-limits)
  • Time to regroup and be grateful for the fact that I can run at all (and to remind myself that I will get over this like I’ve gotten over the other Diva Knee performances)
  • More quality time with the Core Fusion Pilates Plus abs segment (only the exercises that don’t involve my knees)
  • More quality nose-stuck-in-book time (may I recommend “Eiffel’s Tower” by Jill Jonnes, about the Eiffel tower and the belle epoque shenanigans of artists and industrialists and Buffalo Bill in their Paris playground?)
  • More time to plan/obsess/plot my sewing (though this does NOT translate to tidier sewing area–I’m not that good)
  • Longer-lasting manicures and more time to do them (who knew hot pink with yellow dots would be so wearable?)
  • Less laundry needs to be done (no explaining needed here)
  • Considerable savings on water/shampoo/body wash now that I don’t need so much to remove my post-workout salt crust

So, if all goes to plan and the knee feels good on Friday, I’ll be out sweating and swatting bugs come Monday morning.  I can’t wait to shake it again–and I can’t wait to put that taunting little Nike+ avatar in her place, instigator that she is…

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Here are a couple of good reads for the injured and temporarily wimpy:

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How do you deal with being sidelined?

Breadfruit and Me: A Brief History of War

Hey hey!  I’m hot-footing it all across the interwebs this week–check out my post on how I started running (twice!) on Bridget’s awesome blog Pounding Pavement and Plants!

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I think I’ve discovered my vegetable nemesis.  Ladies and gentlemen,  meet the not-so-humble breadfruit:

This vegetable just will not let me be.  It haunts me and taunts me and very rudely gives me the vegetable finger, no matter what weaponry I throw at it.  We have a history of military squirmishes. I believe you could well call it a full-blown war at this stage.

Battle Number 1 (Fall campaign 2008) took the form of traditional Puerto Rican breadfruit tostones (fried slices of breadfruit).  It may not have been ripe enough, or maybe it was too ripe.  I also think I sliced it in the wrong direction.  The tostones lacked both the requisite crispy exterior and the creamy smooth interior.  Breadfruit 1, Laura 0.

Battle Number 2 (Spring campaign 2009) took the form of curried coconutty breadfruit.  I dutifully wrote down the directions from a coworker and stuck faithfully to the recipe.  The breadfruit stuck faithfully to the pan.  It tasted like Elmer’s glue paste with a sprinkle of bitter.  Breadfruit 2, Laura 0.

Battle Number 3 (Summer campaign 2010) took the form of a breadfruit salad that I tried to copy from my neighbor.  Mr. L raved about the neighbor’s delicious breadfruit salad, which was done much like a standard potato salad (mayo, onion, canned vegetable).  I should have known that I had no business dealing with 1) canned vegetables and 2) mayo-based salads because I just don’t do either.  I boiled the beast breadfruit, dressed the beast breadfruit, and (almost) bawled at the beast breadfruit’s refusal to pick up ANY kind of flavor (other than bitter). Breadfruit 3, Laura 0.

Needless to say, this frustrates me and keeps me up at night.  Why is it so hard to judge its ripeness?  Why is its texture/flavor combo so temperamental?  How can I tell what each particular breadfruit is best suited for?  Was breadfruit put on this earth to drive me crazy?

I’m not capitulating.  I’m not giving up.  Aw, hells no.  I’m gonna beat up on that breadfruit like I’ve wailed on caraili (bitter gourd) before. For heaven’s sake, I am Puerto Rican.  I should be able to tame a damn breadfruit in my sleep.

So on Tuesday, Battle Number 4 took place.  I armed myself with my weaponry:

  • Saltfish for me/veggie mince meat for him
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Trini seasonings (Scotch Bonnet peppers, seasoning peppers, chive/green onion, garlic, thyme, green seasoning mix)
  • Olives (which I didn’t end up using)

I worked some magic by stewing the above while I boiled the breadfruit into submission, then mashed it up with some sauteed onion, garlic, and herbs of the above varieties.  I then plonked the fish/meat down and covered with the mashed breadfruit to make a tropical (aka more feisty) version of a shepherd’s pie.  I shoved it all into the oven, crossed my fingers that it would turn out and that my oven would not turn against me, and prepared for the worst.

This is what emerged from the oven:

And this is what landed on my plate:

I held my breath and crossed my fingers before tasting it.  Guess what?  It rocked!  The breadfruit layer was not bitter at all and it actually took on the flavor of the bucketload of seasoning I put on it.  The bottom later of saltfish melded very nicely with the breadfruit and, with the bonus of a slightly crisped top, the combination worked really, really well.  The Mr. very much liked his vegetable mince version, too, which was seasoned the same way as my saltfish.

I  really, really can’t wait to make this again. I will not go nipping breadfruits from branches along the side of the road, no matter how tempting, to make this again.  I solemnly swear.  I don’t fight dirty like that.

Final verdict on Battle Four?  I win!! I therefore take the liberty of pronouncing this last battle the only battle that really matters in the outcome of our war, and declare myself winner.