Use what youâ€™ve got.
Sometimes you donâ€™t have what is called for, but chances are youâ€™ve got something else that would serve just as well.
Call it an adage or philosophy–this way of thinking brings together creativity, practicality, and economy, and can be most useful in problem solving. I had to remind myself of this when it came time to prepare for a cooking demonstration for this yearâ€™s Earth Day Celebration.
I had been asked to feature things that I’ve been growing in my tiny urban farmette. Figuring Iâ€™d have an abundance of mesclun, scallions, garlic, fresh herbs, I had envisioned presenting a variety of vinaigrettes, tossing them on the myriad greens, passing out samples of sumptuous salads.
But, Mother Nature and my seeds did not cooperate with this vision. Our burst of warmth in late February-early March gave way to cooler temperatures and wetter weather. My seedlings, which eagerly sprouted up in my window box greenhouse, remained inert, post-transplant.
They stood in the ground, I believe, and shivered.
It was plain in my two-days-before-the-event assessment that I would have plenty of chives and Italian parsley, but only four scallions of size and a handful of petite greens—slim pickings for a food demo and tasting.
Time to play my â€œwhatâ€™s-in-the-pantry gameâ€; surely it held some wonderful things to pair with my local garden offerings.
And, indeed there were: I found quite the assortment of white beans and peas, all in almost-empty bags and boxes.
Time to put these dribs and drabs to good use.
I chose black-eyed peas, yellow-eyed peas, navy beans, great northern beans, baby limas and flageolets—visually, a pleasing lookâ€”variants of whiteâ€”and all similarly sized to throw into the pot together. In my fridge, I had celery, carrots, and an orange.
An idea began to form:
A light, nutritious white bean medley salad, with crunchy bits of celery, carrot, and scallion, dressed in a refreshing vinaigrette of orange, Italian parsley, and chives.
It was well-enjoyed by the Earth Day cooking demo attendees, but because our intention was to not use paper at the festival, I had no recipe cards to share.
So, here for all of you who kindly attended and all of you, dear readers, is the appropriately renamed for its use-what-youâ€™ve-got sensibility:
my Earth Day Salad.
White Bean Medley
1 cup assorted White Beans and Peas
2 T. Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, small dice
3 cloves Garlic, minced
Â¼ teaspoon Salt
pinch Red Pepper flakes
1 Bay Leaf
Soak the beans and peas for at least four hours. Rinse.
Heat a 2 quart saucepan. Add olive oil. SautÃ© onions until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Continue sautÃ©ing for another 2 minutes. Add beans/peas, stirring so that all are coated. Add 4 cups water. Stir. Cover and cook on medium heart for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid if necessary.
Remove from liquid and cool. Remove bay leaf. Taste for seasoning.
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 heaping Tablespoon Orange Zest
Â¼ teaspoon Salt (or more, to taste)
a few grindings of fresh cracked Black Pepper
pinch Red Pepper flakes
1 Tabelspoon Orange Juice
2 Tablespoons White Balsamic Vinegar
1 heaping Tablespoon Italian Parsley, chopped
4-6 sprigs Garlic Chives, or Chives, snipped into small pieces
Start with the olive oil in the bottom of the salad bowl. Add the zest and allow to infuse for a few minutes. Then add salt, black and red peppers, orange juice, vinegar, parsley, and chives. Stir together well, and then proceed to the next step:
Creating the Salad
3 large Scallions, including green tops, chopped
3 ribs and leaves Celery, finely chopped
3 Carrots, finely chopped
cooked Bean-Pea Medley
4-6 pieces Red leaf lettuce, coarse chiffonade
Add carrots, celery, and scallions to the salad bowl. Stir so that all the ingredients are well coated.
Next, add the bean-pea medley. Fold these into the mixture, again so that everything is well coated with the vinaigrette. Fold gently so you don’t break up the beans. Finally, fold in the shreds of lettuce.
Taste for seasonings–adjust for salt, top with a little more zest and black pepper.
Serve the salad room temperature. The longer it sits in the vinaigrette, the more pronounced the fresh flavors become.
The salad is vegan, but lends itself readily to other ingredients.
Try adding these:
Soft Goat Cheese
Toasted Walnuts or Pinenuts