Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bean Salad with Mole Vinaigrette

It was a good nine months ago that I got my hands on a bottle of a very interesting dark chocolate flavored aged balsamic vinegar. I know, right! Such a thing really exists. And it tastes amazing! In fact, it might have been a bit too precious of a purchase for me, because I was kind of afraid to use it.

Of course, a simple vinaigrette would have been a worthy place to use that vinegar, or I could have been deliciously happy to drench some good bread in it. I had an idea, though; an idea I got immediately upon tasting it. Wouldn’t a chocolate flavored dark vinegar be a good base for a salad dressing reminiscent of mole sauce? And wouldn’t that mole vinaigrette be delicious on a bean salad? And wouldn’t that bean salad be more interesting if there were three different kinds of beans in it?

The short answer to all three of those questions is, “Yes!” I cooked dried beans, pinto, black turtle and huge Christmas lima beans. You, of course, could use whatever beans you like, but I really like this combination. You might have to search for Christmas limas if you have your heart set on them, but another large bean (or frankly whatever you want) will do. If you are interested in exploring some new and delicious beans, however, this place is an excellent source (I got both my Christmas limas and black turtle beans there.)

Now, I didn’t make a dressing that was anywhere near as complex as a true mole sauce, but I think I came up with something representative of those dark, rich flavors. I combined that chocolate-flavored vinegar with olive oil, chili powder, garlic, shallots and smoked paprika, and I loved it! I admit that a similarly flavored vinegar might be difficult to find (I got mine at a specialty shop), but I’m wondering if a small sprinkling of cocoa powder added to a good balsamic vinegar might replicate this wonderful flavor, at least for use in a salad like this one.

I hope to try that cocoa powder idea when I run out of the chocolate-flavored vinegar, because I love the complex Southwestern flavors of this hearty salad. It’s a good side dish salad, but is also a light meal on its own with plenty of flavor to dominate as a main dish (I served it with quesadillas). I can’t wait to make it again! I also hope to find some other delicious applications for that vinegar. Oooh! How about a reduction over strawberries? Now that I got bold enough to open that bottle, this could be a really happy summer.

Bean Salad with Mole Vinaigrette
You can replace the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar with plain balsamic vinegar. You might also try adding a small amount of cocoa powder to plain balsamic vinegar.

1 ½ cup cooked pinto beans (about 1 16-ounce can), drained and rinsed
1 ½ cup cooked black beans (about 1 16-ounce can), drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked Christmas lima beans, or other large beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons dark chocolate balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
Quartered cherry tomatoes and cilantro sprigs for garnish

1. Combine the pinto beans, black beans, Christmas lima beans, green onions and cilantro in a medium-size bowl. Set aside.

2. Place the chopped garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle with the salt and create a paste as described in this post. Scrape up all the garlic-salt paste and place it in a small bowl.

3. To make the dressing, add the olive oil, dark chocolate balsamic vinegar, chili powder, and smoked paprika to the garlic-salt paste and whisk until smooth. Stir in the shallot.

4. Pour the dressing mixture over the bean mixture and stir to coat. Top with the cherry tomatoes and cilantro sprigs to serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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