(Please do not think that I am turning my back on those more calorie-laden comfort foods. I am not. There are plenty more recipes where those came from and while I strive for a healthier lifestyle, I, frankly, do not believe that life is worth living if you can't indulge every so often. But generally speaking -- at least Monday through Friday -- I am going to do what I can to eat in a way that makes sense to my taste buds and to my hips.)
This more mindful consumption complements a new-found commitment to regular exercise and increased outdoor recreational pursuits. I recently started running and weight training and the time I spend horseback riding every Tuesday and Thursday has proven to be the Best Two Hours Of My Week.** I dusted off the old golf clubs and put my spikes in the car. I even inflated the tires on my bike and starting hiking local trails. The largest investment I made this month was in new recreational gear -- riding breeches, some running clothes, a new exercise ball. Damn.
When my bitchin' trainer, Heather, who is like my own personal Jillian Michaels, was discussing some good ways to welcome healthier eating into my life, she suggested that I have a serving of good carbs at dinner. I asked her what, exactly, that meant. She said, "Sweet potatoes." When I replied that I cannot stomach the sweet potato, she said, "OK...black beans."
"Can I have a black bean salad? With olive oil?"
"Of course," Heather replied.
And thus I became inordinately excited to have a good excuse to pull out my very favorite black bean recipe. I'm doing it for my health! I can eat well and still indulge in beloved old standby recipes! See, this is how to get excited about healthy eating. Well, this is how I get excited about healthy eating.
The recipe is Alton Brown's...you know, the Man Who Would Save the Food Network. This salad is so very delicious: a sturdy base of black beans highlighted by the bright tang of lime juice, the slight bite of teeny red onion cubes, the grassy yumminess of cilantro and the complex smokiness of cumin. You might be tempted to eat the entire batch, but, you know, a healthy diet is all about portion control. So do your best to get a hold of yourself. I certainly am.
And Max here is thanking me for it. After all, the less I weigh, the less he has to carry around on his back.
**UPDATE: Check that. What I should have written is, "Next to Saturdays and Sundays, which Dad spends at my house building a large and fancy pantry in which I can store all my black beans, the time I spend horseback riding every Tuesday and Thursday has proven to be the Second Best Two Hours Of My Week."
BLACK BEAN SALAD
Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe
Note that you must soak the beans overnight before beginning this recipe, so plan ahead to allow yourself enough time.
1 lb. dried black beans
1 celery stalk
A few sprigs fresh thyme
A few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 white or yellow onion
2 t. kosher salt
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 c. freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 red onion, minced
1/3 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
The night before you wish to make this salad, pour the beans onto a baking sheet and examine for any small stones or other non-bean material. After you've picked them over, place them in a wire-mesh strainer and rinse. Place the rinsed beans in a large container or bowl and cover with a few inches of water. Cover the container and let the beans soak at room temperature overnight, or up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to cook the beans, tie the celery, carrot, thyme, parsley and bay leaf into a bundle using butcher's twine. Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with the celery bundle and onion. Add just enough water to barely cover the beans.
Uncovered, bring the beans to a simmer over medium-low heat. When the beans are simmering, partially cover and cook for 1 to 2 hours over low heat until the beans are barely tender. About 30 minutes into the cooking time, add the salt to the beans and stir to combine. Occasionally check on the beans and add water to cover them if necessary.
When the beans are just barely tender, drain them and remove the celery bundle and onion. (Discard the carrot bundle and onion.) Toss the beans while hot with the olive oil, lime juice, red onion, cilantro, cumin and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Can be served warm or chilled; it is delicious regardless of the temperature.
Makes 8 servings.