the a-ha! ingredient

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The last several weekends have been tightly packed. There were bachelorette parties, birthdays, weekends away, weddings, funerals, family stuff, and so on. And while it’s fun to travel, it does, eventually take its toll on you. And so I welcomed a weekend of no plans, no traveling, no obligations – I had visions of myself alternating between movies and meals – oh bliss was to be mine!

But in our typical nature, we cannot just sit still. Far from it, we thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to have a barbecue. A last minute thought, we somehow managed to pull it all together without feeling the least bit rushed. On my way from the gym, I stopped by our farmer’s market and picked up fresh, lovely vegetables. And in the afternoon, KS and I took a stroll to Greenwich Village to the famed Florence Meat Market to pick up some meat for the grill – beef, sausage, chicken.

And within a few hours of cooking, we pulled together some delectable treats – like a strawberry-apricot crisp that was devoured in seconds (with that strawberry frozen yogurt I made a little while back!) or a potato salad that I will now make over and over and over, all thanks to Deb of Smitten Kitchen.

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But the true revelation came to me when I was trying to make something with the black beans. I opened and rinsed them and they just sat in the kitchen, glistening, almost expecting something grand, something truly new from me. I remembered that I had some tomatillos in the fridge from the last grocery trip. Though I never cooked with them, I kept thinking about salsa verde and what a great complement to grilled fish or chicken that might be. But I didn’t quite gather my creative juices so the tomatillos sat in the crisper awaiting their fate. What I wound up creating was a bit of a hodgepodge of stuff – I even threw in some basil and it actually worked. I was, to be honest, playing around, and got lucky that everything tasted so good in the end. Tomatillos, of course, were that surprising a-ha! ingredient that made the whole salad/dip/salsa stand out – and it was not only easy to make, but had a zero drop of oil – making it a healthy side or appetizer. It was voraciously consumed by all and especially welcomed by vegetarians at our impromptu soiree. And as for leftovers – we’ve got a nice shiny bottom of the bowl to admire.

1 28 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 medium size tomatillos
2 medium size tomatoes
1 large jalapeno, seeded and cored
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
a handful of herbs – I used cilantro, parsley and basil
a few pinches of salt to taste

In a food processor, pulse together tomatillos, tomatoes, jalapenos and herbs – until you get a chunky puree.

Combine the beans and the puree in a large bowl and add lime juice and lime zest. Mix well, and season with salt to taste.

Radish’s note: when dealing with jalapenos, it is in your interest (mark my mistakes) to work with them while wearing latex gloves. The oils of the peppers stay in your skin long after several meticulous soap washes and be ye not so stupid and try to take your contacts out the same night after handling these with bare hands.