I love when I have time to play in the kitchen, but the truth is I don’t always make the time to play. I get wrapped up in my own drama, make a bigger deal out of my schedule than I need to, and sometimes become a deer in the headlights at the thought of everything before me. (How’s that for honest?) The truth is my life isn’t as complicated as I sometimes think it is, and I know that. But frequently I just need a reminder. So what if I work, have crazy amounts of commuting time, kids that need attention and piles of paper everywhere? So do most of the people I know. And really, I am lucky to have a career I love, lucky to have a car to commute in and audiobooks to pass the time, lucky as all get out to have my amazing kids, and that paperwork….well, that’s just life. And I am lucky that I am a healthy and competent enough person that if I choose to, I can get all those papers under control. (And someday, maybe I will.)
Just like everyone else, I often cook just to get food on the table or ready to pack in lunch bags. It can get repetitive and boring, unless I make a conscious effort to change things up a little. Taking a few extra minutes to make a big batch of something colorful and full of flavor can go a long way for my sanity and my happiness.
This Corn and Black Bean Salad is a perfect example of that. Adapted slightly from a recipe in “Cooking Light” from way back in 2003, my oil-stained, ripped magazine page is filed away in my “keepers” binder and is covered with notes of my alterations and who I’ve served it to. With garlicky corn, sweet popping tomatoes, a little heat from jalapeños, and a citrus kick, it’s versatile and easy to make. It reminds me of summer picnics in the park, and it’s something I’ve brought to potlucks for years, because it can sit out for a while and will taste better and better. You can follow a recipe exactly, or throw whatever vegetables or canned beans you have laying around into the mix. As you can see from the photos, I don’t bother stressing over getting everything diced perfectly. My peppers and red onions are any which size, and it doesn’t make any difference at all. I’ll make a big bowl of this to keep for the week, and use it to jazz up different dishes. It can be my side salad with a turkey burger, I can serve it as a dip with tortilla chips, it can be my filling for a burrito with some cheese and rice thrown in, or I’ll just take it to work in tupperware with some mixed greens. (And if you do the same, make sure to put the Corn and Black Bean Salad on the bottom of the tupperware with the greens on top. Right before eating, shake your container to mix everything around, and your greens won’t be all soggy!) It lasts in the fridge for a good five days, which makes life and meal planning so much easier. And we can all use a bit of easy in our lives….