That first meal was a haphazard affair, with a bit of this and that thrown in, but it was good enough to keep in my repertoire.
I have used it as a basic starting point for many a meal over the years, and it has seen a few different incarnations.
This particular version is a huge favorite with my husband. He just raves about it. I think it’s the combination of lime and fresh garden tomatoes that appeals to him so much. He is a real tomato lover.
And I like that, too, but what I really like is that it’s so darned easy to put together and involves no cooking at all if you have some extra cooked pasta on hand from an earlier meal.
And I love that I have lunch to take to work for a few days during the week.
It’s also an incredibly cheap recipe if you have access to your own tomatoes and garden greens, such as spinach and cilantro, as we do. That brings the cost down to less than $1 per serving.
But it’s still very reasonable if you can get those things locally grown from your grocery store or farmers’ market at this time of year. I’ve used those local prices in my overall recipe cost calculations.
Some ways to minimize costs are by adding more pasta, substituting canola oil for the olive oil, and/or by using reconstituted lime juice instead of fresh.
I actually keep a bottle of lime juice on hand in the fridge a lot of the time because fresh limes in our area can be absurdly expensive, and often have pathetically little juice in them. I also buy it in the plastic lime-shaped dispensers, which is what I used for this recipe.
And although I hear from friends that avocados cost as little as 10¢ in some areas of California, we pay a heck of a lot more than that in my neck of the woods.
Much as I like them, if the price for them is in the stratosphere, I skip them. They don’t add a great deal to the overall flavor anyway. That’s why they are listed as optional.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes about 8 servings
Total Prep Time – Approximately 10 minutes
Total Start to Finish Time – 10-60 minutes
Total Recipe Cost (including all optional ingredients) – Approximately $10
Total per Person Meal Cost with Fresh Bread - $1.50-$2.00
1-2 cups leftover whole grain, cooked pasta, such as bow ties, rotini, etc.
2 large tomatoes
1 can black beans (14-16 ounce size)
1 can red kidney beans (14-16 ounce size)
1 can chick peas or other bean of your choice (14-16 ounce size)
1 cup frozen corn
2-6 cups of baby spinach (or other green of your choice)
1 medium-large bunch cilantro
½ cup olive oil or canola oil
2 fresh limes or ⅓ - ½ cup lime juice (5-8 tablespoons) (to taste)
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder (to taste)
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper (to taste)
1-2 avocados (optional)
Recipe continues after pictures
- Put the 2 cups of cooked pasta in a large bowl.
- Cut the stem out of the 2 large tomatoes, and slice them in half stem to stem. Slice each half in quarters, and then crosswise into triangular pieces about ¾-1-inch in size. Add them to the bowl with the pasta.
- Empty the cans of black beans, kidney beans, and chick peas (or bean of your choice) in a colander. Rinse and drain them. Add them to the bowl.
- Measure the 1 cup of corn into the bowl with the other ingredients
- Wash the cilantro bunch by holding the stems and swishing the leafy ends vigorously for 1bout 15-20 seconds in a bowl of water. Drain and rinse the bowl, refill it with clean water and repeat the washing. Repeat a 3rd time if the water still has garden residue in it after the second washing.
- Cut the stems off the bunch, leaving mostly the leaves. Chop the leaves fine by taking a sharp knife and cutting through them over and over again, placing one hand on top of the blade and using a rocking motion with the end of the blade as the pivot point . You will need to gather them together repeatedly as they become spread out during the process. Scrape the chopped cilantro into the salad bowl.
- Wash the 2-6 cups of spinach leaves in a large bowl of cold water. Scoop them out into a colander to drain. Empty, rinse and refill the bowl, and repeat the process as many times as necessary until the water is clear after the washing. Give the colander with the draining leaves several good, vigorous shakes to remove any excess water and add them to the salad bowl.
- Gently mix everything together in the bowl.
- Measure out the ½ cup of oil into a large cup or jar.
- If you’re using bottled lime juice, add the ⅓-½ cup of it to the olive oil. If you are using 2 fresh limes, wash them and then roll them firmly on a hard surface under the heel of your hand (to loosen the juices). Cut the limes crosswise in half and use a juicer to twist and press as much juice as you can out of them to make 5-8 tablespoons or ⅓- ½ cup. Add the juice to the olive oil.
- Add the ⅛-¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, the 1 teaspoon of salt, and the ½ teaspoon of pepper, and stir everything together briskly with a fork or small whisk.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss everything together gently, but thoroughly. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for an hour or so.
- If you are using an avocado, just before you plan to eat the salad, wash it and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove the seed and then scoop out the avocado in one piece, using a large spoon.
- Slice the avocado into strips and then crosswise into chunks. Scrape them carefully into the salad and mix everything together, using a light touch by scooping from the bottom so as not to mash anything.
- Serve the salad with a whole loaf of fresh bread for a terrific, satisfying, and healthy summer meal.