It’s the season of Lent and, for those of you who don’t know, that means no meat in our house. For a total of 40 days and 40 nights. It wasn’t easy when my husband and son decided to abstain but over the years we’ve kind of gotten into the rhythm of it to the point we now feel perfectly comfortable kidding around about the dish we truly miss. It goes something like, “Oh, my gosh. You know what I really craved today? A burger. A great big, juicy burger with lettuce and tomato and pickles and mustard, ketchup and mayo. With a big pile of crispy fries.” Then the other person replies, “I know. I’d totally kill for a chicken wing. Super hot and covered with sauce. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.” Every year it’s the same song and dance. This salad, however, alleviates some of the pain. I won’t lie and say it’ll take the place of meat but it does fill the hole. It’s wonderful topped with a warm fillet of fish just off the grill. I scoop it onto bruschetta followed by a slow drizzle of olive oil for a tempting and pretty hors d’oeuvre. White beans will never take the place of crispy, spicy sopressata on a pizza, comforting spaghetti and meat balls or a savory, homemade chicken salad sandwich but for right now, they’ll do. They’ll do just fine.
One of the finer points of this salad is that it requires no marination time. Once it’s prepared it can be served. That said, it can also be put together a few hours prior to serving and it’s still fantastic. The recipe is easily halved or doubled with perfect results. The salad travels well to parties and picnics, feeds a crowd and is pretty inexpensive to make. Meyer lemons are much sweeter and not as sour as regular lemons but if Meyers are not available in your area, no worries. Regular lemons are just fine and no one will know the difference. This bean salad can be served as a main dish or as a side.
Meyer Lemon, White Bean and Mint Salad
- 4 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 bunches of flat leaf parsley, rinsed and dried
- 2 bunches fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried
- 1 small red onion, chopped and all tough skins discarded
- 1 large Meyer lemon or 2 regular lemons
- 3/4 cup good olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the parsley and mint leaves and place in a large bowl.
- Zest the lemon then juice it, adding both to the bowl with the parsley.
- Add the olive oil to the parsley mixture and stir well until all the ingredients are completely combined.
- Add the beans to the parsley mixture and gently toss so as not to break up the beans but to completely coat the beans with the parsley mint mixture.
- Taste for salt and pepper.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until serving.
What a great time we had last night! Pamela called last week and said “Let’s have a cookout on the beach. We’ll go late afternoon on Sunday and play volleyball and dip our toes in the water. It’ll be fun!” Catherine, Elizabeth and James were still in the middle of final exams, all three in different states but all three suffering through cold, dreary weather and serious studying. Elizabeth was coming with her boyfriend, whom we hadn’t met yet. Steve’s in business school up North, cold weather and final exams were also accepted grudgingly. Cynthia was flying in from New Jersey…she didn’t have finals but we KNOW she had weather!! Some PM beach time would be more than welcome. Pamela and I started making casual plans. Because a cookout on the beach HAS to be casual. It needs to be fun for all, including the planners. We pooled our dry goods resources, “Do you need me to bring cups? I have five styrofoam cups that we can use for the prosecco, a new pack of red solos for the beer and wine, and I’m serving the cake in little plastic cocktail cups. I have tons of those and I’m not going back to the store to buy cake plates.” “Perfect! I have plates. I’ll bring the burgers and dogs, I’ll get chips and salsa, oh, and I have some brats we can throw on the grill, too.” “Okay. Then I’ll make a big bowl of Mississippi Caviar and I’ll bake a cake. The girls can decorate it at the beach and we’ll surprise Jimmy with a rousing “Happy Birthday”, no presents.” “Good!! I’ll bring some waters and the prosecco.” “Okay. I have five or six beers in the refrigerator and I’ll grab a couple of bottles of wine.” “‘K. What kind of cake you makin’?” “I thought a red velvet sheet cake with cream cheese and pecan icing. Everybody likes that and if I make a butter cake Jimmy’ll know it’s for his birthday.” “That’s true. All right. Catch ya on the flip flop.” “See ya.” And the plan was set in motion! Sunday came and I threw our things in two big baskets, grabbed a roll of paper towels and started loading the car. I don’t keep tooth picks in the house because they’re just way too tacky so I tented the cake using five or six of those paper parasols that are used for tropical mixed drinks. I opened each little parasol, placed them strategically in the cake and covered it with tin foil. Perfect! We took off for the beach, the car reeking of freshly cut garlic. And it was a beautiful afternoon! As soon as the cars were unloaded the kids started a lively game of volleyball and the adults popped open the prosecco and beer. We had a blast! We went down to the water’s edge and poked around. The burgers, dogs and brats were thrown on the red-hot grills and dinner was on. The Tinies decorated the cake and we surprised Uncle Jimmy singing a heartfelt “Happy Birthday”. All the cousins laughed, poked fun at each other and caught up. It was a beautiful night and, once again, we were all reminded that family is everything!
Mississippi caviar is a terrific dish for Sunday dinner, cookouts or picnics. It’s one of those dishes that gets better the following day when the flavors have married well. This recipe can be doubled or tripled easily and it can be served as a salad or as a dip with the corn chip of your choice. It can be served cold or at room temperature. Everybody loves this stuff!!
yield: serves 4 as salad or 6 as a dip
- about 4 cups canned black-eyed peas, well rinsed and drained
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced
- 2 or 3 tablespoons pickled jalapenos finely chopped, optional and to your taste
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large bowl add beans, bell pepper, scallions and jalapenos.
- In a separate smaller bowl mix the remaining ingredients well, pour over contents of larger bowl and toss until all ingredients are well blended.
- Cover and set aside.
- The salad should sit at room temperature for at least a few hours. In the refrigerator overnight is even better!
- Mix again before serving.
Happy Birthday, Jimmy!