A Salad You'll Actually Eat!

Do you cringe at the thought of salad? Maybe growing up you were one of the millions of us who were taught that salad is iceberg lettuce from a bag with scant pieces of wilted purple cabbage and carrots, drowned in ranch dressing. Maybe you then discovered healthier eating and bored your tastebuds half to death trying to eat the same mix of healthy greens with minimal amounts of bland, lite dressings over and over again.

Those were true for me, and salad has been an eternal struggle- either it tastes like I'm eating punishment stabbed onto a fork, or I've drowned the greens in the unhealthiest things possible just to make it edible.

No more, my dears!

This is actually a bean salad, and I have to tell you that it's so good that my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

(you can click on the picture for a huge, hi-res image; see how well the dressing emulsifies when allowed to marinate overnight... but more on that later!)

The ingredients may sound odd, like there's no way they could ever work together, but they really do! Just trust me! And I won't lie- to call it Italian is rather loose in usage. But with the beans, tomatoes, and basil (or green onions) its colors remind me of the Italian flag, plus it has some good Mediterranean flavors with the olive oil and lemon.

Italian Bean Salad
1 can Cannellini beans
1 medium roma tomato
1/2 pound fresh wild salmon fillet*
1/4 cup freshly chopped scallion greens OR basil chiffonade**
1 small to medium ripe avocado
scant bit of pressed garlic (about 1/3 medium clove)***
scant bit of super finely diced red onion or shallots***
good, high quality cold pressed Kalamata olive oil (to taste; about 2 T to 1/4 cup)
all juice from 1 fresh organic medium lemon (I use one of these)
freshly ground sea salt & black pepper

*You could use canned, and a great low-cost subsitute is a can of tuna. It actually doesn't taste fishy in this salad, and my friend who doesn't like tuna LOVED the salad and thought it was chicken until I told her it was tuna.

** Basil is better, I think, but I sometimes use the scallions because they are less expensive and I hate letting fresh basil go to waste (it's pricey stuff!) so I only use basil when I've planned out basily-meals for the week to ensure it doesn't get to rot!

*** For the garlic and onions/shallots, you could skip them, but I think the hint of each adds a layer of flavor that just can't be beat! What I did was prepare this salad when making a meal that contained the garlic and onions/shallots. Plus, the raw, crushed garlic is simply crazy good for your heart! I like using a press for this, though I know some hate them, because it both crushes the garlic, causing the heart-healthy hydrogen sulfide reaction, but also it gets the garlic in tiny pieces which is crucial.

1. Heat grill pan or BBQ to med-hi; once hot grill salmon fillet (no need to season) for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked. The times will vary, so keep a close eye on it. Once cooked, set aside until cool enough to handle, then tear up with a fork, leaving behind the skin and any bones.
2. Drain beans, place in medium-to-large glass bowl
3. Cut / chop tomato (remove pulp & seeds), avocado, and basil/scallions
4. Add all ingredients from step 3 plus the salmon, the onions/shallots, and the garlic to the beans
5. Gently mix ingredients by stirring with large serving fork (I find it doesn't smash the avocado so much as a spoon will)
6. Add olive oil, lemon juice (fresh! Nothing from a plastic bottle! TRUST ME!), and salt and pepper to taste (I do about 1 1/2 twists of salt and 4-5 twists of pepper on my Costco sea salt & pepper grinders)
7. Again mix gently with fork

Now, here's the hard part- take one wee little taste, then cover it tightly and don't dare touch it until the next day; try to wait AT LEAST 12 hours. This is amazingly good right when you make it, but it's downright MIRACULOUS tasting the next day. I try to use organicc ingredients as much as possible, and man, can you tell! It's super light and fresh, fragrant, and I just think of the salmon, avocado, olive oil and raw, crushed garlic doing amazing things for my heart, not to mention the great protein and fiber from the beans and the wondrous lycopene from the tomatoes.

This is salad that tastes like a reward. If you make it (and I sure hope you do!) and find great tips please share them with me!

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