Pigs Fly | TheUnion.com

Pigs Fly

John HartFeaturing - gasp! - processed, store-bought dressing, Black Bean Salad is almost easy enough for Mr. Cat to make.
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My eyes darted down the supermarket aisle before I furtively plucked two bottles of salad dressing off the shelf. Prepared salad dressing! I imagined tomorrow’s Police Blotter: “Natural-foods chef nabbed buying packaged goods.”

Years ago, I swore I’d never trust anyone over 30. I admit I compromised that idea soon after I cut my waist-length hair and celebrated my third-decade birthday. Since then, I’ve also reneged about: owning a minivan, using a microwave, and magnetizing shopping lists to a refrigerator filled with Dijon and half-and-half.

My daughters used to wail because dogs were in my “absolutely forbidden” category. “Stop stewing,” I admonished. “Dogs are noisy and smelly, and as dependent as babies.” I craved one about as much as I hungered for Frogs’ Legs Wellington.

Now our photo albums are salted with pictures of the family dog cavorting at birthday parties. I’m embarrassed to admit he’s even become the central figure in the annual Christmas picture I always vowed to avoid.

I now summon my courage and present recipes that contain ingredients I pledged would never sully my kitchen counters – which, for the record, are made of the white Formica I previously rejected.

Black Bean Salad

(Serves 6)

I’ve pureed mangoes with lime and fruit juice, even soaked them in honey, but my attempts to duplicate the bottled dressing in this recipe have never come close to its winning taste.

2 16-ounce cans cooked black beans, rinsed and drained (I also confess to a previous anti-can phase)

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1¼2 cup red onion, chopped

1 avocado, cut in bite-size pieces

1¼4 cup cilantro, minced

1¼2 cup Spectrum Natural’s Low-Fat Mango Madness salad dressing, available at local supermarkets

Mix everything together and chill so the flavors mingle. If you create a homemade dressing that matches this, please invite me for dinner.

Oh-La-La Salad

(Serves 2 as the main attraction)

I won’t bore you with my never-eat-fish history. If shrimp isn’t included in your current culinary repertoire, skip it or substitute marinated tofu.

1 cup assorted greens

1 avocado, thinly sliced

1 mandarin or seedless orange, sectioned and cut in half

A handful of raisins

1 6-ounce can small black olives

1¼4 cup salted and roasted almonds, sliced

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 carrot, sliced in strips with a vegetable peeler

A handful of alfalfa sprouts

1¼4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 61¼2 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and halved

1¼2 pound large shrimp, peeled and cooked

Mix the ingredients together. Although you may be tempted to use your newly purchased bottle of Mango Madness, give this ambrosial invention a whirl:

Lime and Poppy Seed Dressing

(About1¼2 cup)

Whisk together:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Oh-la-la! This is the perfect amount to dress the salad.

Just a Trifle

(Serves 6 to 8)

My next disclosure involves the rare occasions on which I buy packaged cake. Unless you have some already lounging in the pantry, you’ll probably choose this easy route, too.

6 cups (about 16 ounces) plain pound cake, cut into bite-size pieces (I buy a low-fat variety)

1¼4 cup apple juice

1¼2 cup cream sherry or other liqueur

1 cup berries (raspberries and blueberries earn hoorays here)

1¼2 cup raspberry jam

21¼2 cups vanilla custard (recipe follows) or low-fat vanilla yogurt

Stir the apple juice and sherry together. Spread out the cake pieces and sprinkle with the mixture. If you have a glass bowl, use it for the visual effect; if you don’t, the rapturous taste will win everyone over anyway. For the record, my bowl holds two layers. Arrange a layer of cake on the bottom of the bowl and spread with half the jam. Perfectionists shouldn’t panic when they realize it’s impossible to spread the jam evenly over each cake piece. Spread one-third of the vanilla custard over the layer, then sprinkle with one-third of the fruit. Layer everything again, omitting the jam on the final layer. Finish by fashioning an exotic design with the top fruit. Cover tightly and chill for a few hours before spooning into bowls.

Easy Vanilla Custard

(21¼2 cups)

2 cups skim milk

1¼4 cup white sugar

4 eggs, beaten until fluffy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the milk and sugar almost to a boil. Then turn the flame to low and slowly add the eggs and stir until the mixture is pudding consistency. Turn off the flame and add the vanilla. You can use it immediately for the trifle.

It’s considered good taste to save a smidgen from the bottom of the pot as the chef’s reward.

Gravies turn lumpy and souffles fall; however, there’s one recipe that’s foolproof: Never be sure of anything!

Ronnie Paul is a cookbook reviewer, free-lance writer, vegetarian chef and teacher at Wild Mountain Yoga Center. She can be reached at ronniejpaul@hotmail.com

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