Martha Stewart Living (August 2009)
That is not a word we use often -- and it's not a word we use lightly.
But after one bite of this phenomenal, change-your-life salad, we each slammed down our forks, looked across the table, widened our eyes and exclaimed: "Y'ALL."
We've said this before, but if you think you don't like okra, it's because you've never had it fried. It's as simple as that. In fact, the fried okra was one of things we were most excited about with this salad.
But there's another reason we were excited. Here was an opportunity to cook with an ingredient that's been burning a hole in our pantry for a few months. When we went to San Francisco in April, we returned with exactly one souvenir: A bag of dried beans. Obviously, that's not the most typical Bay Area memento (sorry, Golden Gate Bridge snow globes!). But when we went to the Ferry Building farmers market and happened upon the Christmas lima beans from Rancho Gordo, we had to have them. The Christmas limas are gorgeous -- they're like little Pop Art mosaic tiles.
Now, this salad actually calls for fresh cranberry beans rather than dried Christmas limas. But both varieties are known for their hefty, creamy texture and rich chestnut flavor, so we figured we'd be fine. A note, though: If you do use dried beans instead of fresh, that's obviously going to add significant prep time to this salad. We soaked our Christmas limas for several hours before cooking them in lightly salted chicken broth. We cooled them and left them in the broth overnight before draining them for the salad.
Aside from the beans, this salad actually comes together quite quickly. Boil the corn, whisk the vinaigrette, fry the okra, assemble and eat!
We did make one other change to this dish: The recipe says that simply dampening the pieces of okra will be enough to get the cornmeal batter to adhere. But when we test-fried a piece, we didn't find that to be the case. So we quickly threw together an egg mixture -- just one egg and half a cup of milk. Then we dipped each piece of okra in the egg mixture before rolling it in the batter (the same way we've fried okra before). It was much improved.
So how'd the salad turn out? It was absolutely fantastic. It's one of those dishes that just hits every single note spot-on -- the sweet, juicy corn; the salty, crispy okra; the tart, tangy vinaigrette; and the hefty, nutty beans. It was the perfect blend of multiple tastes and textures. You've just got to try it for yourself!
In a word, it was amazing.
In two words, it was amazing, y'all.
Serves 6 to 8
FOR THE VINAIGRETTE
* 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
FOR THE SALAD
* 8 ounces fresh cranberry beans, shelled (1 cup)
* Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
* 2 ears of corn, shucked and halved
* Vegetable oil, for frying
* 1/4 cup cornmeal
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 4 ounces small okra, stems removed, halved lengthwise and quartered if large
* 1 ounce (2 1/2 cups) lamb's quarter
* 1 ounce (2 cups) baby spinach
* 1/2 cup fresh basil, leaves torn if large
1. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together vinegar and mustard in a medium bowl. Pour in olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Make the salad: Place beans in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender, about 15 minutes. Season water generously with salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Let cool.
3. Meanwhile, return water to a boil. Add corn, and cook until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and let stand until cool enough to handle. Using a serrated knife, remove kernels. Transfer to beans, and toss.
4. Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Whisk together cornmeal and flour in a medium bowl. Rinse okra in a colander under running water to dampen. Working in batches, toss okra in cornmeal mixture to coat, and add to skillet. (Check to make sure oil is hot enough by tossing a pinch of cornmeal into the pan. If the cornmeal sizzles, the oil is ready.) Fry okra until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes per side (reduce heat if okra darkens too quickly). Using a slotted spoon, transfer okra to a paper-towel-lined plate. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Arrange lamb's quarter, spinach, and basil on a platter. Spoon corn and cranberry beans on top. Add fried okra.