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J R's Bean Slog Salad

pour

2 cans of beans (black-eyed peas, small red beans, black beans, or whatever) into a container that's the size of the salad you need.

All these quantities are for 1 large bowl (approximately 1 gallon of slog).

slice

1 stick onion (thin)
1/2 round onion (thin)
3-6 crunchy radishes (sliced to show color)
1 red bell pepper (sliced in long thin sticks)
4 avocados (or more)
2-3 yellow fruit (peach, mango, nectarine, etc.)
1 small banana

peel 4 garlic buds
1 banana (then slice it up fine)
dice 2 romano or 1 round tomato (or both)
a small or medium sized can of diced tomatoes is good enough.
some pecan or walnuts (or the pieces thereof)
chop 1 handful of fresh cilantro
1-4 of your favorite mushroom (if desired)
gut

4 large canned hot peppers
(slice lengthwise, then de-vein the seeds and spine with a spoon)

shred 1 handful of fresh spinach
press 1 big bud of garlic per quart (or more)
drain anything that’s wet or dripping
(beans, hot sauce, diced ‘maters, canned peppers, etc.)
I use a strainer, and I shove it a little with a spoon.
squeeze one juicy lime (for flavor, of course, but it also helps keep the slog fresher)

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I've never written a recipe before, so this could be interesting. Or a big mistake.

I did typeset a recipe book — until the clients told me they wanted what they called a “femin-ninny” typeface, and they insisted on including Holly leaves, which even I knew are poison, in one of their deserts. They thought it made a nice Holiday statement. Oh boy...

Several people have asked me for this recipe. Although it's never been a recipe before now, I have been making it for several years. I sent Libby a list of ingredients when she requested the recipe a couple years ago. But it's not really the same thing.

Once, I tried making this salad with peanut butter (which I kept stirring), wild blueberries, intricately sliced spinach, and small red beans instead of black-eyed peas, and it tasted great, but it looked like... Well, I probably shouldn't use that word in a recipe for a family cook book.

It did not look pleasant, but I knew it was very healthy, since small red beans, blueberries, spinach and prunes are the most antioxidant foods available, in that order. I was too embarrassed by its looks, however, to take it to a New Year's Day party last year, so I ate it all myself.

Back to my recipe for what I originally called "J R's Black-eyed Pea Salad," although that title is insipid and uninspired.

I started jokingly calling it a slog before I figured out how to drain all the wet bits. Besides, you can use any of a number of beans, including Black-eyed Peas, if you just gotta. Small red are much healthier. So now the official title is J R's Bean Slog — except to people who wouldn't understand, then it's the longer form in the paragraph above.

After all those years of bringing chips or other boring nonentities to parties, it's nice to see something I didn’t just bring but actually made — and keep learning more about — disappear quickly. And it's so much fun to nod knowingly when people say, with surprise and disbelief, “J R made that?”

Don’t worry about the order of ingredients. I don’t think it matters, and several of them are interchangeable, besides.

I keep the list posted at home, so I can dream up new ingredients in idle moments. That's how the unfortunate, Antioxidant Slurry happened. It's also how sliced peaches got into the mix. Although mangos (especially frozen Mango Chunks) are better. And the last time I made it, I snuck in one banana, and it was great (so that's on the list now) — and nobody guessed it was in there. Now I'm thinking some kernels of sweet corn would be colorful and delicious. The list goes on.

If there's anything in this recipe that gives you hives, makes you retch or otherwise manifests itself negatively, just leave it out. Maybe substitute something else, maybe not. If your substitute works, let me know.

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I start with the beans. I've tried cooking them myself, but they don’t get soft. So I buy ‘em canned or let somebody else cook them.

My favorite canned beans are Trappey's, because they have jalapeños built in. But you could use Small Red or Black beans, too, or a mix. But not green ones. Just don't let whatever beans you choose get mushy. Be gentle with them.

Maybe half a can of beans per quart of Slog would be a good start. More wouldn't hurt. Fewer would be okay, I guess.

I should tell you how much of everything else to add, too. But I don't know; and it's different every time. I always just start with the beans and a certain sized container (your choice of sizes — for Thanksgiving I made a gallon for the big dinner and a small bowl just for me the night before, because I didn't want to disturb the main event).

Then I keep adding stuff till it's finished. I know when it's finished, because then my container is full.

I love slicing onions. I prefer the green ones. And unless they've just got pulled out of the ground this morning, the green end is better. But I put the whole thing in anyway.

This salad only needs a smattering of onion, one meaty stick per gallon, or a half a stick of green and a quarter of a smallish round onion. Slice them under running water to avoid tears. 1019s are the best round variety, of course, but I don't know when or where to get those. Onions are much less important than garlic in this mix.

You do know to peel garlic, don't you?

Kinda twist each bud firmly in both hands till the papery outer shell part crackles and separates, then you have to work at peeling it all off, exposing the softish white, opalescent bud. Peeling really helps the flavor when you’re cooking or salading.

I scatter the pressings and/or slicings in early, middle and (pressings only) late in the process. I did’t used to think it was possible to have too much garlic. But now I go at it a little more gingerly (Hmm. Ginger might help, too). If you are garlic friendly, add more. If you are a garliphobe, do less.

Chunky mild hot sauce is my fave, but if you like the runny stuff, that's okay, too. Mild, hot, medium, tepid, fierce, whatever. That's up to you. Again, I pile this stuff in to taste early, and maybe, just maybe, a little more near the end of the mixing, especially if the overall color is too beige. Not much chance the flavor will be.

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The color is important.

I insist on red bell peppers. These are golden orange to bright blazing red. If they’re wrinkling they’re already elderly. They should be bright and glossy.

These guys resemble green peppers, except for their color and taste and ripeness. Red bell peppers are just green bell peppers that were allowed to ripen on the vine. Which is why they're so expensive. Green peppers simply will not do. For J R's salad, red only.

Slice them up longwise and narrow (1/16 to a quarter-inch wide), then shorten chop them down to about an inch long. Do not chop. They are in here for their color, their crunch and their flavor.

When the salad’s finished, I like to line up a dozen or so long, thin slices along the top to make it look like a finished product. So save 12 really long ones.

Chop up some cilantro, though. Dried just won’t do. Stir in about a handful of fresh.

Canned spinach is not really spinach. Canned spinach is good enough to eat, if you have enough vinegar or Bleu Cheese Dressing. But this salad requires fresh spinach. Ripped, not sliced, into pieces about the size of a tree leaf.

If your beans don't come with jalapeños sliced, buy some canned jals and slice 'em up or buy them already sliced. Drain first. Park them on a paper towel awhile.


I don't even touch fresh peppers of this dangerous sort. But if you do, keep them on the mild side. There's plenty of other flavors fighting for domination in this soup, er... salad.

In order of my preferences, fresh, frozen or, if you just gotta, canned, peaches are a great counterpoint to the veggie flavor of this salad. Nectarines might work, but Mangos are wonderful. Ixnay on the yrupsay, though. Drain, drain, drain.

Pineapple might be nice.

I put the crushed walnuts (or pecans) in early, middle and late. I prefer to crunch whole ones up in my fingers, although I suppose you could do it with a knife or chopper or food processor if you're compulso. The bits are cheaper and work just fine.

I don't know if crunched nut flavors do anything but just sit there, even in a slurry, but I love the mild surprise and the bits of real crunch in what could be — if you let the moist stuff in this thing get out of control — a mushy mess.

When and if this salad tends toward mush, drain the sucker. Like voting, drain early and drain often. Drain the mushy ingredients before you add them.

Scatter that last press of garlic.

Mix the leaf fragments into the salad like you mix in everything else. With your fingers, or a middle-sized spoon.
 

To finish:

Squeeze a little lime on the top and around the edges.

Press even chunks of mango (or other yellow fruit) into the top in some sort of geometric pattern (rectangles are fine).

Line up the long sliced red pepper along the top surface. Or asterisk them in a round bowl.

Clean off the inside edge with a paper towel, and cover it up (preferably with a seal-on top), and stow it in the fridge till you’re ready to cart it off to its destiny.

 

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