This is, simply put, the best warm weather salad ever. It’s bright, colorful, tangy and offers a spicy kick in the pants for those who like to keep it caliente. This hot little number rocks any summer party, especially those rooftop BBQs that you know won’t have what it takes to satisfy the cruciferous-minded among us. It’s vegan and, because it has beans, is substantive enough to tide over a summer appetite. That said, the salad is also a delightful compliment to grilled meats — such as chicken kabobs, lamb sausage or even a burger. Plus, if you’re short on time like any good New Yorker, you can slap this puppy together with your bare hands quickly and with minimal thought. Yet it’s more than just a time-saver with some zest.
The thing is, culinary creativity is too often stifled by rules, measurements and other such hindrances to fun. Today, for this recipe, let’s just throw them out. Summer is about frivolity and this anti-recipe is about your unique taste buds having a party with a bunch of celebrity ingredients. You can’t go wrong, and even if you do, it still feels so right.
Wash your hands well before prepping. Other than a chopping knife, you can screw utensils: not only will there be less in the sink to clean up when you’re nursing that hangover, but this is for people too sexy (or prudent) to waste time on propriety. Mix the whole damned thing with your hands, get gooey Agave syrup between your fingers and squeeze lemons like your pleasure depends on it. The messy sensual experience is part of the indulgence, so don’t be shy and please, don’t be proper.
*A word on heated honey: In Ayurveda, the ancient tradition of Indian medicine, heating honey is believed to create ama, which roughly translates as toxins. If that seems esoteric to you, just know that cooking raw honey burns up all the good, powerful enzymes and antioxidants that make it a super-health food. However, because it is more viscous than pasteurized honey, it needs gentle heating in order to pour and mix. I recommend raw honey for all of its health benefits, not to mention that it’s sweeter, more texturized and more flavorful. Though if you balk at such honey snobbery, hey man, this your party — do whatever you want!
No, really, I am not going to tell you how much or when to pour or what order to do it all in. I will tell you to drain the beans in a colander, and to go slow with the honey and oil at first. Don’t over-salt, but don’t under-salt, either. You and I both know you’re the only one who can say how much is too much when it comes to hot pepper. If you want guidelines, here: sprinkle, squeeze, pour, stir, taste, repeat. Fine tuning is on you, kid.
If you like more greens, by all means go with two heads of cilantro. If you like other beans, a white bean works well, too. If you like intermittent spice, go with the red chili flakes and leave the cayenne out altogether, ‘cause the cayenne is for people who like a slow, constant burn. You’ve got to trust me that any salad dressing needs only four flavor components to be rad as hell: sweet, sour, salty and oily. Only through play and experimentation will you discover the proportions that make you weak in the knees. Survey says crushed pecans or toasted almonds make a killer garnish.
Jokes aside, this salad is a serious hit. It’s quick, it’s light, it’s pretty and it’s delish. Spread the love and enjoy.