Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lunch- Mexican spinach salad

We more of less live on very simple variations of Mexican or Mediterranean food all summer. This was lunch for me today and dinner for us last night-- roasted beans and salsa with something I made up; I've dubbed it Mexican fried rice. It's all on top of a bed of fresh greens. I heated the beans and rice separately in the microwave- it's a nice foil to the cool, crisp greens and refrigerator-cold salsa.
For lack of a better name I'm calling this dish Mexican spinach salad, but like everything else I make, it's open to lots of variation- namely, whatever I have in the garden and whatever I have in my pantry!
A word about calendula petals- they are basically tasteless, but they are pretty, and with all that intense color, they surely contain some micronutrients. And they get a lot of OOoohs! when served on a dish. Just make absolutely certain that they haven't been sprayed with anything. I strongly recommend using only your own edible flowers on food.
Here's the provenance and anatomy:
From the garden:
Mixed greens
Asian mustards
Lemon thyme
Calendula petals
From the farmer's market:
Dried cranberry beans
From far away, grain:
From far away, dairy:
Shaved Parmesan cheese
From far away, vegetables and fruit:
Canned tomatoes (for salsa)
Black olives
From far away, spices, oil, condiments:
Cayenne pepper
Lebanese olive oil
Kelp (for cooking the beans)
Bean Tips!
The cranberry beans I used were dried. I've made a pot of beans or bean soup or some beany thing probably every week for the last 20 years, mostly from dried beans. Here are four dried bean tips- #1 was the newest discovery for me.
1) Some beans will never get soft no matter how long you cook them. This is usually attributable to age. Even if the beans are dried, local and recent is better than far away and old. Check your farmer's market- there is probably a farmer there who grows and dries his own.
2) Cooking beans with a little square of kelp really helps to soften them. Kelp contains enzymes that help break down the tough proteins. Lately, I've been putting a square of kelp in the initial soaking water, too. It seems to make a difference.
3) Never salt beans until they are cooked- salt inhibits softening.
4) After changing the soaking water and rinsing well, bring beans to an initial boil, but immediately reduce to a very low simmer. This helps with the softening process, too- and also reduces the 'side effects' of eating beans.
Mexican fried rice
This is my new favorite rice dish- it added a lot of interest to this salad. I made it up after having something similar recently in a local Mexican restaurant. I think I'll take the "fried rice" theme further next time and add an egg and some different vegetables from the garden.
2 to 4 cups white or brown rice, already cooked
1/2 to 1 cup hot water or broth
Cumin to taste (minimum 1 tbsp or so)
1/4 cup really good olive oil
salt to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro, handful
chopped garlic (optional)
chopped onion (optional)
Put oil in pan, allow to heat up. Add garlic and onion at this point, if including. Once garlic and onion is well cooked, add cold rice- break up well with spatula or spoon. Coat thoroughly, reduce heat and cover.
Heat water (or broth), add cumin, garlic, salt, cayenne, to liquid, stir well. Add to rice, combine well. Allow to simmer until heated through- if liquid is too much, remove cover and cook off.

1 comment:

Robbyn said...

Ok, that looks so so SO amazingly good! I love the tips and didn't know that about the kelp...shall have to try that. I've never had much success with beans, but I'll have to get that one down yet...they are important and I keep having this idea of slow-baked beans being a regular occurence in my ideal homestead week. Thanks for the great tips!

I'm tagging you for the meme on the topic of what you'd be willing to do without...passing it right along to ya :)