Firsts and Lasts and Rice and Bean Salad

rice and bean salad

Two events this week--one that feels major for our little family, and one that's devastating for lots of people in my community.

First, Wyatt and I are separated for five days. He's staying with my parents and going to camp. He's having the time of his life, calling every night with reports of going pedal-boating, eating ring pops from the camp candy store, and being spoiled by his grandparents. I opened my Mom's fridge to find a cup of blackberries with this note sticking out the top. I've never been away from him this long, and it's made harder by the fact that I'm especially infatuated with him right now.  I miss his helpfulness, his little routines around the house, standing over his bed and watching him sleep. This is ridiculous. He'll be home Friday night.

do-not-eat

And my dear friend and colleague Bud passed away on Sunday night. I can't really get my head around it yet. My heart aches for his wife and my friend Kathy, for all of us that loved and knew him. I'm so grateful for his life, for the love and generosity he showed to me, and that his community will be together soon to celebrate him.

Bud's death has made these last few days seem especially poignant and fragile. I haven't wanted to let Loretta out of my sight, and dragged myself to my meetings today. What is this life, if not precious? We are all born to die, but I manage to skirt that reality quite a bit most the time. Right before I got the dark news, Loretta asked, "Mom, how do persons die?" And tonight she said, "Well, that's okay if you and me die. We just won't have bodies anymore." But right now, we have these bodies, and the only thing to do with them is love. I plan to do it more fiercely than ever.

Postscript: Here's a salad I've made twice this week. Once for Jordan's homecoming picnic, and today to drop off for Kathy. Comings and goings, firsts and lasts. Chalk another one up for the comfort of the kitchen. At the very least, it's something to do with our hands when nothing else makes sense.

grilled zucchini

Rice and Bean Salad
This salad is great to take to potlucks or to grieving households. It's vegan (though you could add some crumbled feta or queso fresco), gluten-free, and quite sturdy. It can sit in the fridge and be picked at for lunch or dinner, or can be piled on top of greens with some grilled chicken for a main dish. Or you could deliver it with some torillas, shredded romaine, and chipotle crema to make roll-ups. It might not garner a bunch of oohs and ahs at first glance, but the garlicky cumin dressing will hook people. This makes a very large bowlful. Halve it if your life is slightly less full of potlucks than mine has been.

2 1/2 c. brown basmati rice
2 15 oz. cans black beans
4 small zucchini
2 c. fresh corn kernels or Trader Joe's roasted corn, (sold frozen)
couple big handfuls chopped Italian parsley or cilantro
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. raw pumpkin sides for garnish

For dressing:
1 Tb. coarse salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
Fresh ground pepper
Juice of two limes
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Cook your rice. I do mine in a rice cooker, then let the whole batch cool in the fridge overnight, breaking up clumps when I dump it into the bowl. However you do it (lots and lots of water on the stove would be another way), your grains should emerge separate, not all stuck together, and you'll want the rice down to cool down a bit before proceeding.

Grill the zucchini (I used my grill pan). Cut each zucchini in half crosswise, then cut each half lengthwise into four 1/4" flat strips. Toss the strips with a bit of olive oil and salt, and grill for about 2 minutes/side. Cool a bit, then dice.

If you're not using Trader Joe's amazing frozen roasted corn kernels (my new favorite thing), you can just use raw corn if it's really sweet and fresh. If it doesn't fit that description, toast it in a skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt for a few minutes just to take the raw edge off.

Gently toss rice, zucchini, corn, and all other ingredients together.

To make dressing, combine first four ingredients, then whisk olive in to emulsify. Gently toss salad with dressing, and top salad with pumpkin seeds.