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Black beans, navel orange, mushrooms, cilantro, and lime citronette over a bed of mixed greens.

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There is a taqueria I adore that makes this absolutely amazing citrus dressing. It’s simple, fresh, and just plain good. It is the reason I started playing with citronette recipes, though I’ve branched out quite a lot over the years. Still, I love the flavors of Mexican, or Southwestern, or Cal-Mex, or whatever you want to call food with heavy handed cilantro, zesty citrus, pale green avocado and fresh crunchy lettuce.

I really wanted a vegetarian salad for lunch. A can of black beans in our cupboard and a bright yellow lemon decided it for me. I pulled out romaine lettuce, scallions, avocado, mandarins, a cucumber, mushrooms, cilantro, garlic, and spices, and started chopping. I really wished for some radishes — I just love them with these flavors — but my fridge disappointed me.

I added more cucumber than I normally would in order to help make up for the absence of radish crunch, which was necessary to balance out all the creaminess from the beans and avocado. There is no substitute for radish deliciousness. I added smoked paprika to the citronette for the first time, I think just because it was red like a radish and right next to the cumin in our spice cupboard. It also smelled really good.

Southwestern Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, Mandarin, and More - Ingredients

Here are the delicious components for the salad.


Ingredients:
(Serves two as a hearty lunch salad.)
2 hearts of romaine, chopped.
3 scallions, chopped.
1 avocado, quartered and sliced.
3/4 can of black beans, rinsed and drained.
3 mushrooms, sliced.
3 mandarins, peeled then sliced in half and into eighths.
1/2 english cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced.
1 handful of cilantro, chopped.
Zest of 1 lemon.

Southwestern Citronette:
(Use only what you need, refrigerated leftover citronette will be good for several days.)
1 T lemon juice.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika.
1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced.
1 pinch of salt, to taste.


I made this for my husband and myself, and since we were actually both home at lunchtime I just tossed it all in one big bowl and we ate it snuggled up on the couch with two forks. Halve the recipe if you’re just feeding one person.

Southwestern Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, Mandarin, and More - Ready to Toss

The salad is ready for dressing and tossing...

I rinsed the black beans first, leaving them in a strainer so they could drain while I put the salad together. After making a mountain of lettuce in the salad bowl, I zested the lemon over the romaine, and then I made the citronette. I let the dressing sit (to give the garlic and spices time to steep) while I chopped veggies. I scooped the vegetables into the bowl, added the drained black beans, drizzled the citronette over the top, tossed it, and, well, YUM.

Southwestern Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, Mandarin, and More - Ready to Eat

And now we raise our forks and dig in!

The Verdict:
Amazing.

Yes, it would’ve been better with radishes. But that’s like saying a gorgeous, crisp, sunny day in Tilden would be better with butterflies. I didn’t notice they were missing, though I would’ve enjoyed them if they’d been there.

I loved the last minute addition of the smoked paprika — it gave the citronette an intense depth of flavor, and it added such pretty color. My husband was equally impressed. He knew there was something different, but he couldn’t quite place it…

Make it a Meal:
Done. Pinto beans would also work, or grilled chicken, steak, pork, or shrimp.

Pack it to Go:
If you’re making this for one, remember to halve the salad ingredients, and dress it to taste — a little at a time until it pleases you. Avocado needs to go in the dressing or stay in its skin when you pack it to go. Mandarins should be peeled and sectioned, instead of cut, so that the juices don’t wilt the lettuce. Everything else is great as described above — just keep the dressing in a jar with the avocado, and the rest of the salad in a container with a little extra space for fork-tossing.

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