Food is Love, Love is Food.

A blog devoted to the connection between meals, memories and the special moments in our lives.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It is in Giving that we Receive: Corn and Black Bean Salad

I was taught well from a young age to practice what you preach.  My parents were not only involved in the church we attended, but were active in the community in which we lived.  They both had careers that were not focused on merely gaining wealth, but on serving others.  After my father died, my mother continued in this manner.  Though she was juggling working, going to college full-time, raising two daughters, and an active social life, she found the time and energy to volunteer for many causes.  She was in tune with the community around us, and realized that there were many families in the area that struggled with putting food on the table for their families each week.  She did some research, and began working with our parish priest to begin a food pantry in the basement of the rectory of the church.  She held food drives, collected non-perishable food items, organized the space, and drummed up many volunteers to man the new food pantry.  She worked with people to spread the word, and welcomed clients with grace and dignity. I spent many hours working there with my mother, and always marveled at her energy and her commitment to those in need.  She taught me to be thankful for the abundance of blessings in my life, and to share with those around me.

The high school I attended stressed the importance of doing for others as well, and I was fortunate enough to take part in many service projects aimed at helping others.  That, coupled with the tendencies of those people with whom my parents surrounded us, my grandparents, our friends George and Ellen, and many of our aunts and uncles, set the tone for my life.  The message in how they lived was clear:  when we give, we receive. 

My own daughters and some of their friends are involved in similar projects through our church.  They have spent a Saturday morning working at a food pantry preparing packages of food for others, they have, with the junior high youth group, made sandwhiches to be brought to a shelter, and several times they have volunteered to serve a meal at a homeless shelter in the city close to where we live. They go with positive attitudes and lots of energy.  And each time they return, I know that they have gotten the message loud and clear.  They are energized by the work they have done, and have gotten far more than they gave.

Thirty five years ago today, my father died at age 38 of a sudden heart attack.  As he was a man who helped others, and helped stress upon me the importance of practicing what you preach, it is fitting that my family is spending this evening working at the shelter.  Members of the community have planned and cooked a meal, and we along with others are going to deliver and serve this meal.  It has been a crazy week.  We are tired, and looking ahead to another crazy week, and I want nothing more than to plop on the couch and relax, but I know that we will return tonight rejuvenated by our work. It is important for kids to do this kind of thing, I believe;  to see the world around them, to find some small way to be of service, to use the gifts they have been given. Tonight, we work in memory of my dad.

The recipe was given to me by the woman who organizes the meals for the shelter, and looked so good, that I wanted to share it. It makes a large amnount of the salad, and can be made for a crowd, or can be scaled back for a smaller gathering.  It goes well with barbecue, and in the summer, can be made with fresh corn.  I have made a similar saled in the past which included avocado, so add that in small cubes if you like.

Corn and Black Bean Salad:

4 15-oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups frozen corn kernels (3 16-oz. bags)
3 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3 orange or yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and very finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients in a large serving bowl and fold to mix well.  Chill before serving.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Asian Inspired Green Beans

I can't believe I haven't shared this green bean recipe yet. It is another one of those recipes that I started making after having green beans like these at a Chinese restaurant. We loved them so much that we started experimenting with how to make them at home, and came up with this recipe. They are great with a roast chicken, or as a side dish with any Asian-inspired meal.  You can make them as spicy as you like, or not at all, and they are easy to cook ahead of time and reheat.  Even my mother, who really only wants to eat Italian food, loves them.  They are best when you find the really skinny french green beans, called haricots verts. Make a lot, because they are also great as leftovers.

1 pound green beans (the skinnier the better)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced very fine
3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp (or more if you want them very spicy) Asian chili paste (such as Sambal Oelek)

Depending on the thickness of the green beans, trim the ends, then wash.  Blanch them for about 3-4 minutes in a pot of salted boiling water.  Strain and run under very cold water for a few minutes.  Place the oil and green beans in a large frying pan (a cast iron skillet works particularly well, and I often split the beans up into 2 pans) over medium high heat. Cook them, moving them every several minuted, until they become brown on all sides.  This will take up to 20 minutes, depending on how many green beans you are making, and you may think you are burning them.  You can add a few tablespoons of water to the pan as the green beans are browning to help the process along.  When the are well-browned,  turn down the heat to medium low, and add the garlic.  Sautee for 2 minutes, constantly moving the green beans and garlic around to avoid burning the garlic.  Add the soy sauce and chili paste, turning the heat off, and stirring the beans to coat them evenly.  Serve and enjoy!