Wednesday, August 1, 2012

31 Days

Today is the first day of the worst month of the year.  Hello, August.

I’ve never liked August.  It’s a long, hot month with little to break up the monotony.  There are no big holidays in August, just the impending end of summer.  Living in Texas, I treat August as a countdown: starting today, we’ve got 31 more days of the inferno, 31 days to survive.  It’s the end of August that gives us something to celebrate!

The good news is that I have something delicious to share with you today.  Remember how I was lamenting that despite numerous attempts, I had yet to come up with a good vegetarian version of the green peach dish in Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite?  Well, my lamenting has been replaced with contented chewing: now I’ve got a great green peach and black bean salad.

Summertime Green Peach and Black Bean Salad

(Trust me: this salad is more delicious than it looks. I promise.)

It was worth the effort.  I was initially intrigued by the flavor combination in Melissa’s dish: green peaches (of course!), garlic, ginger, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and fresh basil.  Unusual but delicious!  I really wanted a good vegetarian way to showcase that combination.  I thought black beans might work well, since black beans are very tasty with other fruits, such as mango.  The problem is that every time I baked another version of my black bean version, the black beans dried out and made the dish unappealing.  Rather than being juicy and succulent, the dish seemed as parched as me after a run in the Texas heat.

I had an epiphany when I realized that green peaches don’t need to be cooked to be delicious.  That was the key!  I could just toss all the ingredients together and call it a salad.  What’s even better is that by making a salad, this dish requires no cooking: just some light chopping and a little can-opener action.  (Or, if you’re thrifty and organized, you can cook a big batch of black beans and use two cups of your homecooked beans here.) 

I’m not one to shy away from using the oven, even in August, even with my mother’s voice scolding me in my head for wasting energy.  But I do love a good chop-and-stir number, one that’s easy on the cook and her air-conditioning bill.  So I’m going to keep this recipe handy because it, alongside some jazzed-up rice or a nice sandwich, makes a mighty fine lunch or dinner.

Summertime Green Peach and Black Bean Salad

Inspired by and adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

Serves 3-4 as part of a component lunch or dinner

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. sherry cooking wine (I bet sherry vinegar would be fine here too)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger, plus more to taste

1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste

1 16-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed or 2 cups cooked black beans

1 pound hard (green) peaches, sliced into ~1/4-inch slices

2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1)  For the dressing, whisk together the oil, sherry cooking wine, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper.

2)  Place the beans, peaches, and basil in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over everything, toss gently, and serve.  This salad keeps nicely for a few days in the fridge, too.

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