Three-bean salad has pluses

Entertaining

It's quick to fix, and goat cheese, jalapenos add surprise flavors

Entertaining

October 13, 2002|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

I love potlucks, so when an invitation to one organized by my women's investment group arrived, I immediately began thinking of what I might prepare. Unlike some, our hostess made no requests for specific dishes such as vegetables, salads or desserts. "Bring what you'd like," she enthusiastically wrote in her e-mail.

Although I never mind being assigned a particular food, I was delighted to have carte blanche this time. I did keep a couple of things in mind. There would be close to a dozen attending our meeting, so a recipe that could feed a crowd was important, and since the host's home was several miles away the dish had to be one that could be transported easily.

Looking through my files, I discovered a recipe for Three Beans Plus Salad, which Rich Terapak from Columbus, Ohio, had taught at the cooking school I ran while living in the Buckeye State. I remembered how well the salad had been received by the students, but had never made it myself.

At the market, I found the black, pinto and garbanzo beans, the grape tomatoes and both the sweet and hot peppers called for in the recipe. In addition, seasonings of cilantro and flat-leaf parsley plus some creamy goat cheese were needed. At home, I marveled at how quickly and easily this salad could be assembled. Using canned beans, which were rinsed thoroughly and then dried, saved a huge amount of time. The trio of beans was combined with red onion, red bell pepper, jalapenos, tomatoes and herbs, then tossed in a vinaigrette dressing scented with cumin.

At serving time, the salad was garnished with bits of goat cheese. I made the salad, which serves 8 to 10, early in the day and kept it refrigerated until leaving for the party. Although I was tempted to double the recipe, a single preparation worked fine when offered with so many other dishes.

Amazingly, our buffet was beautifully balanced. Along with my contribution, there were fruit and pasta salads, corn cakes, stir-fried chicken and vegetables, and a sideboard filled with sweet temptations. The best part of any potluck is sampling the specialties of other people and often exchanging recipes. So, after only a few minutes' discussion about the plunging stock market, our group focused on the more pleasurable business of eating and talking about good food.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

Rich Terapak's Three Beans Plus Salad

Makes 8 to 10 servings

SALAD:

three 15-ounce cans black beans

one 15-ounce can garbanzo beans

one 15-ounce can pinto beans

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cleaned, stemmed and halved lengthwise

1 cup chopped yellow or red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed

1 cup chopped sweet red onion

1 tablespoon seeded minced jalapeno chile (see Note)

DRESSING AND GARNISH:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

4 to 5 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled or broken into small pieces

To prepare salad, drain all the beans in large colander and rinse well. Drain well again. Place beans in large, non-reactive mixing bowl. Add tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and jalapeno chile, and mix well.

To prepare dressing, in small bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil and cumin. Pour over bean mixture. Add cilantro, parsley, salt and several grinds of black pepper. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

(Salad can be prepared 5 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)

To serve, mound salad in large shallow bowl and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.

Note: The tissues around your mouth, nose and eyes are very sensitive to the oils of hot peppers, so if you touch any of these areas with pepper-coated fingers, you will feel an unpleasant burning sensation. Wearing rubber gloves when seeding and chopping chile peppers will prevent this problem. Remove the gloves and wash them as soon as you are finished.

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