Salad recipes show anti-legume diner was full of beans

HAPPY EATER

May 11, 1994|By ROB KASPER

There are beans in my salad and I like it. This is hard for me, not exactly the world's biggest bean lover, to admit.

My relationship with beans has been spotty. Gossip columnists would not call beans my "frequent companion." Rather, beans and I have what the gossips would call an "on-again, off-again" affair.

I am very fond of some beans, such as green beans, baked beans and black beans cooked with pork. Other beans, such as white beans, do nothing for me. I could take them or leave them. However, when lima beans appear in front of me, I flee.

As happens in life, I am paired with a person who has totally opposite opinions from mine on many subjects, including beans. My wife likes beans. She even likes those awful black-eyed peas, which I regard as beans wearing raccoon masks.

From time to time I have had to fight off attempts at the supper table to put the "wrong kind of beans" in the "wrong places." And until recently one of those places where I believed beans should never appear was a salad.

Then one night while I had grilled some swordfish, my wife made a black bean salad and the salad-bean barrier fell.

These black beans, mixed with onions, peppers, cilantro, olive oil and lime juice, didn't taste like "bad" beans, the ones with a chalky taste that reminds you they are filled with fiber. Instead these lime-soaked beans had a surprising Caribbean flavor, a crisp flavor that went well with the grilled fish.

Moreover, it turned out that the recipe for the black bean salad came from one of my favorite cookbooks, "The Thrill of the Grill" by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby.

I was so taken with bean salads that later, when I found a recipe in Steven Raichlen's "Miami Spice" for grilled pepper-crusted tuna, I didn't immediately drop the cookbook even though it also called for serving the tuna with a salad made of the dreaded black-eyed peas.

Instead I substituted black beans for the black-eyed peas. Using black beans was more trouble because they had to be soaked several hours. But the substitution worked. Besides, while I'm more fond of beans than I once was, I'm still not ready to embrace the black-eyed monster.

Black bean salad

Serves 6 to 8

FOR BEANS:

1 pound dried black beans

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fennel seed

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bay leaf

DRESSING:

2/3 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped scallion

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

10 tablespoons lime juice

salt and freshly crack pepper to taste

Cover beans in cold water, soak for 5 hours, drain and rinse well. Put beans in pot and add water until it is about 1 1/2 inches above beans. Add thyme, salt, fennel seed, garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender but not mushy. Drain beans and rinse for 1 minute under cold water to stop cooking process. Rinse again.

Mix dressing ingredients well in large bowl. Add beans, toss, serve.

Black-eyed pea salad

Serves 4

2 cups cooked or canned black-eyed peas (cooked black beans can substitute)

2 ribs celery, finely diced

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in mixing bowl and toss. Correct seasonings, addding salt or vinegar to taste.

-- From "Miami Spice" (Workman, 1993, $13)

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