One of the both weird and heartwarming customs of my native land was (and I hope still is), showing up at the door of your best friends on a whim. Sure, everyone is entitled to their privacy and down time, but there is just something inexplicably awesome about closest friends being so close that unannounced visit is never frowned upon; moreover, it’s welcomed at pretty much any time.
I remember numerous times we would take our dogs for a walk in wee hours, and decide to visit our friends who lived just a few blocks away. Sometimes, we would pass by their balcony to see if the lights were on and call their names. If they answered — and 9 out of 10 times they did — we were buzzed in and admitted as is, in our pajamas, along with our huge shaggy dogs. Ten minutes later, we would be invited to the table laden with home made goodies, delicatessen, cognac with basic chasers (for adults anyway), and piping hot tea with home made cherry jam and lemon, and the party would continue long into the night.
The key word here being “closest friends”, of course. I wouldn’t advise you to do the same to the people you just met, even if you happened to instantly like them. It only works with your pals, your buddies, your chosen few BFFs…
For the very reasons above, any self respecting house hosts would have in their arsenal tried and true “guest-at-the-doorstep” recipes — things you can put together quickly with simple ingredients most people have on hand. Thus was born the “Guest at the Doorstep Apple Charlotte”, an airy upside down apple pie made with nothing but sugar, eggs and flour; oven toasted sandwiches — best in the world if you ask me; mayonnaise based cookies that don’t taste like mayonnaise; epicurean delights such as Nikolashka — a phenomenal tangy chaser made of nothing but sharp cheese, lemon and sugar — a construction that claims Russian czar Nicolai as its creator (here is one person who, I bet, never was caught off guard by uninvited guests, unless they declared a war or something). There were, of course, cheese doughnuts, fruit compotes, draniki (OMG!) — savory potato cakes with cheese inside, Matzo Brei, and, as a last resort, skillet fried potatoes with eggs — a pile of homey goodness…
Where is all of this rambling headed to, you might wonder by now? Well, I was reminded of the “quick and easy” today, when I had a need to put together something very simple for a large potluck gathering. I only had a few minutes to spare between a long drive between states and the little recital, in which I participated in more than one capacity, and I couldn’t really prepare anything in advance, because we were out of town for two days prior to that. So here we go — I finally reached the explanation for the long intro — quick and simple, yet effective recipe was in order.
The beauty of this recipe is — you can use whatever dressing pleases you, made from whatever you have on hand. The basic components are the usual suspects typically found around the house — kidney beans, herbs, garlic and walnuts. The rest is really up to you, mess with it all you want, you can’t ruin it. I experimented just a tad with the dressing, and it paid off. You be the judge.
Chipotle Bean Salad With Walnuts
- 2 cans kidney beans
- 1 can cannellini beans (white)
- 1/2 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
- 1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
Dressing (feel free to offer your own):
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp yogurt (or sour cream, if you don’t have yogurt)
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste
- a generous pinch of ground Chipotle
I doubled the recipe for a large party, and mixed the different beans for added visual interest, but it’s not really necessary flavor-wise.
Dump the beans into a colander, drain, rinse and drain again. Scoop the beans into a large bowl.
Toss the rest of the salad components in the bowl with beans.
Mix your dressing separately, whisk until smooth and creamy. Add to salad and toss nicely, taking care not to mash the beans. Let sit for 15 minutes to embrace the flavors. Enjoy by itself or as a side dish.