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Japanese Vegetarian Salad
John Tullock

One of the building blocks of this recipe is the idea of making lowly bean salad into a special dish by means of cleverly chosen additions. In that regard, this concept is hardly new. Pairing the protein-rich bean salad with an herb salad, and tying the two together with a light dressing emphasizing Japanese flavors is an inspiration. Using off-the shelf ingredients, as in this version, makes the dish quick and simple to prepare. By adjusting the quantities appropriately, it can be a first or main course.

For the bean salad:

Canned or home cooked beans and pickles are equally at home in this recipe. For two main dish servings, use the quantities given. Recipe is easily multiplied for a crowd.

1 cup cooked navy or great northern beans, rinsed and drained well
1 cup cooked wax beans, rinsed and drained well
1/2 cup gardinera, drained, the liquid (about 1/4 cup) reserved in a small bowl
10 pimento stuffed green olives
1 pickled hot pepper, such as jalapeno
1 tablespoon commercial horseradish
1 shallot, peeled and sliced into rings

Combine the beans in a large bowl. Chop the gardinera, the olives and the pepper in a food processor and add to the beans with the horseradish.

Place the shallot in a small pan with two tablespoons of the liquid from the gardinera. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, cool in the pan, and add to the beans.

To prepare the dressing, combine two tablespoons of the gardinera liquid with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Reserve.

For the herb salad:

Prepare the following herbs, substituting as desired with what you have available. You can add lettuce or other salad greens in any proportion, as well. The amounts refer to loosely packed measures.

Japanese parsley, the leaves removed from the stem and torn to bits, about 1/4 cup; Italian parsley, similarly treated, about 1/2 cup; French sorrel, the center ribs removed and the leaves cut into chiffonade, about 1/2 cup; chervil, minced, about 2 tablespoons; dill, minced, about 1 tablespoon. Toss the herbs in a bowl with about half the reserved dressing, or until nicely coated.

To serve:

Mound some of the bean salad on one side of a plate. Mound some herb salad on the opposite side. Drizzle the remaining dressing here and there on the plate. Garnish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Soup and a bowl of rice would complete the meal nicely.

John Tullock is an expert gardener and self-taught cook who likes to develop new recipes using his own fresh produce and the best from the local market. His interest in plants and horticulture begin in childhood, and he holds a masters degree in biology from The University of Tennessee. Now a full-time freelance writer and author of six books, Tullock also co-owns "Gardener and Gourmet," a retail business that specializes in rare plants and fine food products.

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