This delectable dish has enough moxie to go from a summer picnic to a winter dinner party without changing a thing except its perfume. Brightly colored, fresh, light yet satisfying, flavorful but not excessively idiosyncratic, and wonderfully healthy (albeit liberally endowed with flecks of decadence). It is easy to make, visually pleasing, and contains enough protein, fiber, vegetables, fat, and flavor to make an excellent single-container lunch. It is also inexpensive and ideal for young bohemians on a budget - assuming that you already have the herbs, a huge bowl (i.e., a week's supply) costs less than $10 to make. A one-time investment of 15 dollars for a bottle of "O" olive oil (the one crushed with organic Meyer lemons or the one crushed with organic blood oranges) will provide a grace note that is worth the money (plus, both of those olive oils are exquisite, and a little drizzled over pasta is all the sauce you need when you crave the starch of pasta but not the heaviness of a true sauce or the apathetic gesture of simply buttering it).
And without further ado, the base recipe (with seasonal variations):
- Diced tomatos (summer=deseeded fresh romas, winter=two tins of diced tomatos, well-rinsed)
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 yellow or orange pepper, diced
- small jar sliced green olives
- small can minced black olives
- 2 cans great white northern beans (rinse well)
- 2 cans of light red pinto beans (rinse well)
- 2 cans of black beans (rinse well)
Rinse beans and tomatos (if using tinned), dice peppers, and toss everything together with the olives. You'll also want to drain the green olives, perhaps reserving some of the brine to use instead of salt during the final seasoning. Isn't it lovely? Almost looks like edible confetti, yes? The visual cortex and the tummy are communicating high-bandwidth style, yes? Oh, yes.
But you're not done yet.
In a separate bowl, whip the dressing into a froth and/or frenzy of anticipation:
Pour over the vegetables and legumes, toss thoroughly, cover bowl, and give the flavors some privacy in the refrigerator. Once they have a chance to meld, bond, influence, and otherwise establish an intimacy with each other, the salad is ready to eat. About three hours should do, more if it sounds like they're having a good time in there.
P.S. If you are so lucky to have a Penzeys Spices nearby, or a phone upon which to call for their catalog (1-800-741-7787), or the inclination to browse them online (www.penzeys.com), you will be able to acquire a quantity of the humbly named "Pasta Sprinkle" which I so love - a mixture of sweet basil, Turkish oregano, garlic, and thyme. I use a liberal quantity of it when I make this salad, and wouldn't be at all surprised if my fondness for it has been amplified by its use.