Mexican Cold Bean Salad
Talking Fresh has taken a left turn. I hope you will stay with me, because I find this new phase of the column liberating.
A bit of history:
Talking Fresh came about as the result of a conversation I had at church one Sunday morning with Jen Kopf, one of the editors at the erstwhile “Lifestyle” section of the Lancaster Sunday News. I admire Jen and her remarkable writing, her sense of the history and culture of Lancaster, and her obvious love for Lancaster. I asked her why the paper didn’t have a restaurant critic, and if they would be interested in entertaining the idea. I pointed her toward my blog so that she could get a sense of my writing, my style, my sensibility, and my slight leaning toward anarchy (I should point out that before I gave her the URL, I had to clean it up a bit—I’d been blogging for a couple of years at that point, and I tend to write in frenetic bursts, thinking that everything I write is just what everyone else wants to read—my bad!).
A few weeks later Jen got back to me with several reasons why the paper didn’t think a restaurant critic was on their radar, and admittedly, the reasons were sound. But she liked what she read on the blog—she actually used the word “interesting.” I was ecstatic. But not yet a published writer here in Lancaster.
A couple months later I got an email from another editor at Lifestyle, Lynn Schmidt Miller, who suggested that they might be interested in running a semi-weekly column if I could present it just as I present entries in the blog.
“Why sure I can,” I responded. Ulp. Suddenly I’m a food writer in Lancaster, with you all and the rest of the county as my readers, and I owe a column every other week.
No matter what.
Of stuff I made myself.
But I took up the challenge, went in to the offices of the paper on King Street, got a photo taken of my former fat self, balloon chin and all, and suddenly I’m a columnist in Lancaster.
In the same newspaper as Gil Smart and Louis Butcher and Larry Alexander and Jeff Hawkes and Tom Murse and all the other fabulous writers we are blessed with in this town.
For me, because Lynn asked me to write the column just as I had been writing my blog, I took that to mean that I was wanted as much for my writing as for my recipes. The truth is, I always considered the blog—and now the column—as an outlet for my writing, and the recipes were simply the device to get people to read the entries. To this day, I don’t know, and don’t really care, whether they were more interested in the writing or the recipes.
Being on a word count made it all the more challenging, but for me it was always about the essay up front. My wife always reminded me that the column had to be about something.
“What’s it about?” she always asked.
When space was tight and the columns got edited, it was always the writing that got snipped, which made me feel a little sad. But I understood—still do—the demands of space in the paper, and half a recipe is worthless.
Which brings me back full circle to this column, which is that I now feel liberated, because the restriction of word counts is off, and now my only task is to be interesting and produce wonderful food and recipes. If I bore you half way down the column, that’s on me.
But I’ll continue to write the column, and continue to love doing it, and hope you continue to read it and to share it with your friends—Facebook and otherwise—so that maybe I can gather some steam for the column and gain some readership.
As I’m writing this, I munching on one of my all-time summer favorites, a Mexican Bean salad Ellen conjured up from her little tin recipe box about which I’ve written more than once. This salad is a killer. It’s cool and spicy and flavorful and filling and simple and festive and…for now I’ve run out of adjectives, but suffice it to say make it, and it will become one of your go-to summer dishes. Lots of ingredients, but lots of flavor. It’ll win raves!
Mexican Bean Salad
1 15-oz can black beans
1 15-oz can red kidney beans
1 15-oz can cannellini (white) beans
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
1 medium spicy yellow banana pepper, cored, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
2 ears of corn, lightly steamed, cut from the cob
1 10-oz package frozen corn, defrosted
1 red onion, diced
2-3 scallions, white and light green parts only, 1/2-inch chop
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoons white sugar
2 cloves finely minced garlic cloves
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 dash (or more—wayyyyy more) red pepper (read: Tabasco) sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
In a large bowl, combine beans, peppers, corn, and red onion.
In a small food chopper, add all remaining ingredients and pulse until they are well mixed. Pour dressing over salad fixin’s and toss well to coat. Chill thoroughly and serve cold.