I don’t know about you, but I thought these last three weeks just breezed by!
Maybe I didn’t realize it as much last year at this time, since I spent half of the month on vacation, but for anyone who teaches or works in higher education, August is basically a lost month.
But that’s no excuse. This is a cooking blog.
And I have been cooking. Some decent food, some frustrating food (I’m looking at you, brown rice risotto OR two hours of my life that I spent standing over a hot stove on a hot day saying “Matt, come here, I think it might be absorbing some liquid! I think it’s working now… Wait, never mind, it still tastes like sticks.”), and then some disappointing food (zucchini polenta tart that should have been good but just didn’t get along with my oven and wow did it really not look like the picture on her site).
But when life gets stressful and you’re starting to run out of confidence in your ability to cook normal meals, it’s time for some salad.
We’ve had lots of them over the past few weeks, but allow me to highlight a few:
Heidi Swanson's Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad
We had this over plain old green leaf lettuce, but it would basically be good over anything because it is, perhaps, the greatest salad of all time. And, as a testament to it’s goodness, Matt asked if we could have it again later that same week. That’s just not the kind of success I usually associate with cucumbers and tofu.
I used the rest of the avocado from that one to try to recreate my favorite black bean salad from Toto’s Tacoz. You may notice that the beans look a little worse for the wear. That’s what seems to happen when I freeze them and heat them up later. They still taste good.
not quite as good as Toto's, although my oven-roasted chips are better.
It’s basically homemade nachos, but, you know, better for you. Because of the lettuce? We tried it again last week with pinto beans and actually had some cheese on hand, which helped contribute to the nacho-ness of it all. This also expands nicely to feed a crowd. All you need are chips (I just slice up tortillas with a pizza cutter, spray some oil over them, toast them in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes per side, and enjoy. You could also buy a bag, but this is much cheaper and also tastes better), lots of lettuce, a few cups of black beans, some avocado, and, if you’re in the mood, a cilantro-lime dressing would go quite nicely. So does salsa. We took an earlier prototype to a Dia de los Muertos party a few years ago that sticks out in my mind as one of the most surreal experiences in my recent memory. There was all of this food and we met a few really fascinating people I haven’t seen since. And someone told me my jacket “look[ed] smart” as we were leaving. And then we saw a coyote on the way home.
This next salad turned out much better than I thought it might when I was throwing stuff together in a pan.
hot and cold salad
This was staggeringly easy. All I did was chop and soak a few dried tomatoes in some boiling water for about 20 minutes, get Matt to wash and rip a head of lettuce into smaller pieces, heat a few cloves of minced garlic in a hot pan with olive oil, rinse off some thawed frozen cannellini beans, add those to the pan when the garlic is fragrant, then liberally add red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper, and a few tablespoons of lemon juice. I added the tomatoes and another splash or two of lemon juice and bam. The perfect salad topping, already dressed and ready. I added some feta for some extra saltiness. This would also be really good in a grain salad, especially with barley or something else that’s hearty and chewy as a base.
And here ends my homage to salads and their utility (and deliciousness) during times of stress. Up next: pasta!