There I was, almost 8 years ago, stuck with an invitation to a summer cookout at our condo’s patio with neighbors and nothing to take. It was not unusual that we had to plan a little extra in advance since southern cookouts tend to be heavy on the meat and gluten fare. I was used to putting some time into planning a dish that wouldn’t scare away the regulars but that day I didn’t have the advantage of time. It was a last minute invitation that was accepted and I ran home to find the staples in the pantry…rice and beans. Panic set in, I looked in the fridge with no relief.
The sun shone through my kitchen window and I remembered the herb garden we made with our neighbors. Surely there should be something I could think of. Sure enough I started the water for the beans and rice and went down to collect the herbs. Not sure what I was making yet I just grabbed handfuls of whatever looked good.
It was a miracle that happened that day. I’m sure I had recently eaten some cold type bean dish to steer me in this direction but it was also the fresh herbs that directed me. They seemed so fresh and inviting. So the beans and rice cooled, I added the huge pile of fresh (like picked within the hour fresh) herbs, a squeeze of lemon and as an after thought added the dried fruit for some sweetness. Like any good cook, I was tasting along the way but felt it was missing something…it needed some crunch. Hello almonds!
I can’t tell you how many compliments I had on this dish that day but what I do remember is that it was enough for me to remember to make this salad again. I couldn’t believe that a vegan, gluten free dish could be so popular. People (more than one) asked me for the recipe. I gave them the “little bit of this and a little bit of that” version as I really had just gotten lucky on this one.
Fast forward 8 years and I again am tending my little herb garden thinking what to do with these herbs that are surprisingly growing so quickly in the California sun. I’m so glad this recipe popped into my head. Not only does it give me a use for my herbs but it also reminds me of the good times and dear friends in Atlanta.
This recipe is so easy to adapt to your personal preferences you are crazy not to try it. All you need is the base of brown rice and green lentils, a little oil and sour, any combination of herbs that you love, a sweet and a crunchy. I’ve even used leftover beans and rice for this recipe for a quick lunch.
So, here’s to gearing up for summertime cookouts, lazy days by the pool, and long lasting friendships. I hope you get a chance to make this salad. I think it will earn you endless invitations!