You’d probably be surprised if I told you how much I loathe cooking for myself. Or maybe not since I make no secret of it. There is nothing exciting about cooking a fabulous dinner for my lonesome to enjoy. Not to mention it completely lacks the “Sexy, I am” element. No one’s watching, detailing my movements, or swooning over the grace in which I sprinkle pretty pink salt… So why bother? It could really speak to some serious deficiencies in my life. I’ve done all kinds of inner-analysis to understand the repelling cause and have come up with nothing reasonable. Especially since I can eat like a 6’3″ man weighing 240 lbs. Seriously. The way I can put it down leaves newbies in my life in complete shock. But at least I can make it happen if the urge ever kicks in. Even then there are only a handful of dishes I’ll give my undivided attention. Salad is not one of them. Meh, not the greatest party in my mouth until the super creative (or bored) mind starts playing tricks on my palate. And that’s how his red bean salad happened yesterday.
Actually, in keeping honest, I’ll let you know this was totally inspired by a salad I enjoyed at Jaleo’s, a José Andres tapas spot in DC, just this weekend. If you live here then I’m sure you’ve been. If you’ve not, treat yourself but know you’ll dish out at least $60 for 3 small plates and a cocktail if you can eat the way I do.
Their salad was a clean bowl of thinly sliced rounds of apples, Manchego (I could sleep on a block if this cheese it’s so amazing!), fennel, walnuts, olive oil and vinegar. It was a slither over-dressed and a decimal too tart but it was divine. Ultimately, it was very fresh with a nice bite and perfect for inspiring me to enjoy mas ensalada. It takes a good, good salad for me to want to recreate. And theirs was that good.
And so I did. Yesterday’s wasn’t a case of boredom or a creative party in my head — I was hungry, didn’t have time to make a thorough meal, and really wanted to eat Manchego. And probably of more fun importance, a red bean salad I blogged about 4 years ago has hit the 40k hit mark! That made me smile and want to do another simple salad anyone could enjoy, any time.
In my myriad of options, I went for mostly simple ingredients I had and started to build my bowl. I didn’t want to make José’s salad per se, but I did want to play around with the concept. And, I wanted to equalize the experience with something very basic like beans and more fancy such as white truffle oil (though its “faux” pas sill exists).
The earthiness of both worked just right. The apples gave the entire salad a tangy and sweet bite but the added essence of shaved fennel with their delicate leaves finished it beautifully.
There was definitely a happy dance party going on in my kitchen. Mami had two bowls, I had one and we just giggled at how fantastic eating simple and satisfying food is. It’s also nice taking a break from our beloved traditional Cuban food. This is a clear case of ‘less is more‘ ; and faster which is what I’m in need of these days — quick, easy, and highly yum food at home.
By the way, of special note, this salad tastes really good the next day after the truffle oil has really saturated and married the the other ingredients. Simply fridge it and give it 5 minutes to “loosen” before enjoying the next day. I just did.
If I don’t like cooking for myself but enjoy marvelous creations like this when I’m inspired, imagine what could result if I did!
My word! Don’t be like me. If you’re single, cook for yourself. Find your innerchef! Create, play around and B! Inspired.
Red Bean Apple & Manchego Salad w/Fennel
- 1 can red beans (unsalted)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cubed
- 1/2 cup Manchego cheese, julienne into 1/2" length
- 1/4 cup fennel bulb, julienne and shaved
- 2 Tbsp. while truffle oil
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 tsp. fennel leaves,
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- salt to taste
Rinse and drain beans. Add to large bowl. Add all dry ingredients and combine well. Gently stir in vinegar and truffle oil. Serve into individual bowls. Garnish each bowl with one piece shaved Manchego and 1-2 slithers of shaved fennel.
* Chef's notes: Use a small vegetable peeler for the fennel bulb and a cheese slicer for the Manchego.