Corn, Tomato and Black Bean Salad with a Lime-Chipotle Dressing

We’ve been making salad for dinner. Given the heat, we’ve been making salad for dinner a lot. Last week, for instance, we managed to not turn on the stove for five consecutive days.

It’s fair to say that I have a bit of a taco salad problem. It’s been my favorite meal for, oh, about 20 years now. The way I satisfy that ongoing jag has shifted a bit, admittedly; this is light years away from iceberg lettuce in a deep-fried white flour tortilla.

But if you share with me a love for that spicy-cool-tart-crunchy-citrusy combination – not that I’m admitting to anything, but if, let’s say, you did something on the order of driving three exits down the Beltway to hang out at a fast-food restaurant that rhymes with Paco Hell in the middle of the night in high school, but have since turned your heart toward wholesome food – this is the salad for you.

This corn, tomato and black bean salad is one that can only be born at midsummer – it needs perfectly sweet-tart tomatoes, not to mention crunchy-sweet corn. Cilantro backs up the citrusy note of the lime-based dressing, and black beans and bulghur give it the heft that a main-dish salad should have.

Sure, the black beans make sense, but the bulghur might seem out of left field, right? It has a good reason for being there. It adds what I think is an essential chewy note, something that salads often lack. The bulghur fills that textural gap and makes the whole combination much more satisfying to eat.

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Fierce Fierce Dressing

My friend Ana is the one who taught me that you really can make dressing.  She had a great knack for it, and it took me some years to get the hang of it myself.  She and her husband Randy, both Culinary Institute of America grads, and I made a lot of dinners together and opened plenty of bottles of wine back when Ana and I were Whole Foodies.  And we went to see emmet swimming a lot, which meant late nights, and going out to eat afterwards, and crashing at someone’s house and going to get bagels in the morning.  There was a lot of eating.  We had tons of fun.

Now they have two boys and we’re out on the Left Coast, so there’s not much getting together.  But whenever I make dressing, I think about watching Ana do it, and how as the time I resented my own reliance on purchased dressing and admired her improvisational ability.

This dressing went on a lentil-and-vegetable salad tonight.

¼ c. red wine vinegar

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T. whole-grain mustard

1 large clove garlic, minced

Combine the vinegar and oil and stir briskly until emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste and stir (it’ll need more than you think, because remember, this’ll be seasoning the whole dish).  Add mustard and garlic and stir again.  Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and stir once more.

If dressing a green salad, I would use less acid and a little more oil.  This sort of dressing is also improved by the addition of just about any fresh herb – dill would be great in this permutation, but I’m saving my dill for a potato salad later in the week.  If I was using lemon juice as the acid I’d use less of it, omit the mustard, and load up the dressing with finely chopped mint leaves.