Cold bean salad

Sometimes it’s simply too hot for cooking, but you need something more substantial than cold cereal, or hummus and carrots, or whatever else your “too hot/lazy for fire” go-to meal is. Enter the cold bean salad, or as some people call it, “cowboy caviar.” Fuck cowboys, “indians” and other non-colonizers who respect seasonal rhythms and the fine balance of ecological networks ftw.

This is an image of cold bean salad paired with white rice. The caption reads: The human body needs 20 amino-acids to form proteins that help with a variety of body functions. Nine of these are "essential," meaning that the body can't produce them and must obtain them from food. Apart from meat sources, which contain all of the essential amino acids, the easiest way to ensure a healthy supply of these is to eat plant-based foods that complement each other to form complete sets of essential amino acids. Of these complements, beans and rice are a world-wide classic.
The human body needs 20 amino-acids to form proteins that help with a variety of body functions. Nine of these are “essential,” meaning that the body can’t produce them and must obtain them from food. Apart from meat sources, which contain all of the essential amino acids, the easiest way to ensure a healthy supply of these is to eat plant-based foods that complement each other to form complete sets of essential amino acids. Of these complements, beans and rice are a world-wide classic.

Apart from its ease of preparation, the beauty of this recipe lies in its versatility: of consumption as well as preparation. Most of the ingredients can be swapped or substituted depending on your tastes, and what you happen to have on hand. Scale it up for a party or down for lazy lunches for one for the week ahead. Eat it over fresh rice for something warm, with fresh crackers or corn scoops for something portable, or with fat chunks of avocado thrown in for a stand alone meal in a bowl that feels healthy and satisfying at the same time. Aren’t customizable recipes the best recipes?

Self-indulgent memory lane selfie of myself with two friends, eating made-ahead cold bean salad off the back of my car midway through a road trip.
Flash back to one of the many times, possibly my favorite, I prepped this ahead and served it to companions mid-road trip. I miss you, Kangni and Natalie, and I will never forget what amazing sports you were about me feeding you homemade food off the back of my car under the slight shade provided by a lone tree out behind a gas station in Ganado, Arizona.

Ingredients:

1 can kidney beans; or substitute black beans, black-eyed peas, broad beans – whatever. I use either kidney beans or black beans because they are both easier to find and cheaper. In CM theory they both tonify blood.

1 can garbanzo beans; the original recipe I was given for this called for canned corn… I don’t digest unground corn well, so I added more beans. Garbanzos keep their shape, and take the flavor of dressing well, but basically you could use whatever you like here.

1/2 – 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped; if you’re one of the 5% of the population for whom cilantro tastes like soap, try using parsley instead; if you’re cooking for one of these people… I feel for you, because we both know cilantro is <3, but it is still good on you to acknowledge the validity of their complaint and accommodate them accordingly

1/4 – 1 bunch of scallions, rinsed/dried and diced

2 medium tomatoes (or 1 large tomato, or 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes), diced

1/4 cup of oil: EVOO, Avocado, or Walnut work nicely, but I was out of those so here I used a more neutral sunflower oil with a dash of sesame for taste

1/4 cup of vinegar: a good balsamic offers a lovely flavor, but more often than not I use apple cider; the original author of this recipe suggested red wine or sherry vinegar but I’ve never bought those so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

1+ tsp cumin (don’t leave this out, it really adds to the dish)

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/8 – 1/4 tsp of salt (to taste, and depending on whether your beans were salted or not)

Optional: 1-3 crushed and minced cloves of garlic, 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper, or ground ginger, or any other spices that float your dressing boat

Prepped ingredients in a large bowl sitting on chopping board, ready for mixing.
Everything prepped and ready for mixing.
The dressing ingredients in a bowl, just before they're poured over the waiting bowl of beans and veggies below.
It’s about to get saucy, awwww yea….

Preparation:

Rinse and chop your veggies, adding them into a large bowl. Drain, rinse, and drain your beans, adding them into the same bowl.

Add the oil, vinegar, and spices into a little bowl, and quickly mix them with a spoon. Pour this over the beans and veggies in the large bowl, and mix it up. Voila!

This salad is best made a few hours ahead of when you want to eat it, or better still, made a day ahead so the dressing really marinates in. Keeps up to two days in a fridge or well-insulated cooler – this recipe rocks for camping and road trips! Dice in some ripe avocado to finish to add fat (and deliciousness).

Medicinal actions:

As stated above, beans – especially black and red beans – tonify the blood. They are neutral in temperature, and a little sweet. Sweet things often tonify – this is why eating a bunch of candy will make you gain weight – so with either beans, meat (another blood tonic), or even I guess candy, we want to moderate the tonification by balancing them with other foods in the dish, or on our plate.

Tomatoes are cooling, slightly sweet and sour. They replenish fluids in the body, and clear heat at the blood level. Often we experience some symptoms of this in summertime, because of the heat of the season – irritability, restlessness, dry eyes, possible difficulty sleeping, a feeling of just being too hot.

The scallion is acrid and slightly warming, which helps circulate the qi to prevent it from getting bogged down by the heaviness/tonifying action of the beans or the coldness of the tomatoes. Through their warming action they also buffer this dish against the (literal) cold temperature at which this dish is likely to be eaten. (Remeber, the digestive organs in CM like to be warm – this is a main reason why CM practitioners warn against the common western practice of drinking cold beverages, including cold water.) Further, if, like me, you have a tendency to get sniffly, overly cold, and a bit muscle-achey in overly air-conditioned rooms, the scallions can help strengthen your body’s defenses (by sending them to the skin surface) to block out the cold wind of the AC.

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is neutral to cooling, benefitting the digestion through soothing liver yin, which ensures smoother circulation of qi and blood. Parsley leaves have a similar action, but more acrid and warming in nature.

Garlic and ginger, like scallion, are acrid and warming. But unlike scallion their action primarily stays at the level of the digestive organs themselves.

Scallion floats out more into/onto the body surface, whereas parsley, a green, soothes the liver thereby checking it from aggressing onto the digestive organs, something it likes to do. If you have chronically loose stools (especially if you see undigested food in your stools), ginger and garlic are especially good to work into your normal culinary routine. If you have sensitive digestion that goes through bouts of constiptation and loose stools triggered by external stressors, cilantro is your buddy.

I could go into the action of the dressing as well, but… sometimes a sauce is just a sauce, and it makes the food taste better, okay?