I have always been a cheerleader for a “recipe-ish” approach to cooking, because I discovered that it makes all things meal planning and meal prep so much easier. Sure, recipes have their place, and are so helpful when you want to try a new dish, a new ingredient, or a new technique. Recipes are wonderful training wheels that help you gain momentum with your cooking skills. But when it comes to your day-to-day, in the trenches, get-it-done cooking, a recipe-ish approach is a LOT more sustainable.
Instead of strict steps to follow, recipe-ish is about letting a template guide you. It’s easier and quicker than fussing with a recipe, and also gives you the flexibility to work with what you’ve got. Doesn’t that sound like just what you need right now?
Here is my basic recipe-ish approach to a simple pantry-friendly bean salad. It’s so easy to make, and keeps for DAYS in the fridge. It’s a wonderful side dish, is delicious added to a big salad, and also can be gently heated in the skillet and served with a fried egg on top. You could even repurpose it into a soup by reheating with some broth and additional veggies and/ or starch.
This template allows you to work with whatever you’ve got on hand (or not!):
BEANS – Canned is fine, or cook up your own dried beans. (Here are my super-easy instructions for cooking dried beans in your Instant Pot.)
AROMATICS – Aromatics are those humble beginnings that elevate all of the other flavors in a dish. Here I’ve used celery, carrot, and onion. Feel free to add other veggies like diced red pepper, garlic, or substitute with some scallions, red onion, leeks, chives, ginger, etc. There are endless combinations to try, and each with a different regional influence. And technically, “aromatics” often refers to the foundational spices and herbs that might also be included . . .
HERBS – Use what you’ve got, fresh or dried.
SPICES – Dig out those jars. There you’ll find the perfect addition to bring something interesting to your dish.
ACID – Vinegar or citrus are great options. There is a whole wide world of vinegars out there – red wine, balsamic, white balsamic, champagne, sherry, rice vinegar, and tons more. Experiment to discover your favorites!
FAT – Here I’ve used extra virgin olive oil. Work with what you’ve got, and if you can, try to stay away from highly refined oils.
Combine all ingredients, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy immediately, and store leftovers in the fridge for repeat joyful eating. And no blah leftovers here – I’ve noticed that a good bean salad tastes even better the next day or two!
What do you have on hand that you think you could toss together to make your own bean salad?