I have to be honest here. Wendy does at least 90% of the cooking in our household. Though I pride myself on the fact that I try not to succumb to gender stereotypes, this is one area that I often fail. It's not for lack of effort, but the planning, creativity, and desire to enjoy nicely prepared and delicious yet healthy meals often resides much more in Wendy's court. You may have noticed this from the fact that the majority of our various recipes on OTH are all penned by Wendy. Nope, not just a crazy coincidence.
Due to the fact that I admittedly rely on Wendy for most things culinary, it's with great excitement that I would like to share a little gastro delight of my own with you. Since I don't eat land meat anymore (just water meat), and we pretty much cook only vegetarian dishes at home, I'm always keeping my eyes open for an idea or two that can offer up fresh and very veggie options for meals. I get especially enthused when the recipe is one that doesn't take a particularly large amount of prep time or kitchen skills. And that's exactly what today's salad is all about. Fresh, healthy, quick, easy. As a simple meal challenged boy you just can't beat those stats.
To begin the black bean, corn, and avocado salad, you'll need to head out to the store for the various fresh ingredients.
- 2 avocados
- 2 cups sweet corn
- 2 15 oz. cans black beans
- 3 heads of Romaine lettuce
- 16 oz grape tomatoes (heirloom if desired)
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt (sea salt)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
- 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
Assembly of this salad is super easy, but make sure your avocados are fully ripe.
Start by chopping the romaine into bite sized pieces. I'm a bit of a lame cook, so I used our good kitchen scissors for this step. I find this lets me cut the lettuce right into the large serving bowl. If you're using a knife, just take the (extra) step and transfer the romaine to your large serving bowl. (Ok, so I took a photo of myself using the knife so you all wouldn't think I was lame, then I decided to come clean about my scissor usage, which I think actually makes me more lame. What's even more lame is that I'm left handed, and I was using the knife with my right hand. Hopeless.)
In another large bowl, begin combining the rest of the vegetables and legumes. Start by draining and rinsing the black beans.
I'm fairly neurotic about bean grit, so I tend to rinse beans for quite some time to get them all clean. Once adequately rinsed, add them to the bowl.
Next, cut your grape tomatoes in half and add them to the large bowl. We've used both regular grape tomatoes, as well as heirloom tomatoes. I like the flavor of the heirloom tomatoes better, but the look of the red tomatoes an the end result is far more appealing in my book.
For the corn, you can use either frozen or fresh sweet corn kernels, but either way make sure they are completely thawed and drained. I also used fire roasted corn when I made this dish, but I think I prefer just the sweet corn. No matter what you're using, add the corn to your large bowl.
Go ahead and mix all of these ingredients in the bowl so the next step will be a bit easier.
Finally, cut your avocado and remove the pit so that you can cube it. I remove the pit by cutting into it slightly with the knife and then sort of twisting it out. If it's ripe enough, it will come out rather easily, otherwise you have a bit of a mess on your hands.
The is the part where the ripeness of the avocado really matters. Too ripe and it will just mush, too hard and you won't be able to get it out of its jacket. You have to Goldilocks this fruit. (It's a fruit, right? Seeds on the inside?) If you've never worked with avocado before, after slicing horizontally, I typically use a spoon and slide it between the edge of the skin and the inside. A nicely ripe avocado will help you slide the spoon around and the inside will more or less pop (or slide) out for you.
Once the inside is out, just use a large knife to slice in the other direction to create your cubed avocado. Too easy.
Add your avocado to your large bowl and gently mix, trying not to damage and smash your avocado cubes. This is why you mixed the veggies in the previous steps, now you only need to mix in the one ingredient, not all of them.
Next, we'll create the dressing. Since we're making a vinaigrette we'll need to combine everything in a specific order. There's some sort of scientific explanation behind that order that involve emulsification. I won't pretend to know exactly what happens, but I do know that it tastes much better if you do it right.
First, add your garlic, mustard (we used a lime and jalapeño mustard we picked up on vacation), salt, sugar, pepper, and cilantro to a glass container. This is the base of the dressing.
Then, cut your limes in half and measure out the juice. Once ready to go, pour them into the container with the base ingredients and which them gently together.
And finally, slowly pour your oil into your lime and mustardy base, whisking as you pour.
The whisking action is what creates the vinaigrette through the reaction between your oil and acid (the lime infused mustard base). If you don't whisk while you pour, your oil and mustard/lime base will separate, which will result in a decidedly lackluster dressing.
Using some of your vinaigrette (~3 tablespoons) coat your vegetable mix by gently stirring in the dressing. Then combine the vegetable mix with the hearts of romaine that you prepared in the very first step.
Plate your wonderfully colorful salad and add dressing to taste. You've got a satisfying dish that can be either a side salad or a light and healthy entree.
In all, this probably only takes 15-20 minutes to prepare, and it's very easy prep. One serving tip: if you're not going to eat the whole salad in one sitting, everything keeps really well in the fridge except for the avocado. So just prepare the salad without the avocado and dressing and cut up just enough avocado cubes to mix in with the quantity you area serving.
Not too bad for a quick and easy meal, eh? Do you have any standbys or quick prep meals that are you're "go to" when your culinary partner wants a night off? We'd love to hear about them.