When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: Bowls are more fun if you can eat them -- and if they're filled with this bright bean salad.
I jump awake at 6 a.m. to tuck my daughter into the mama-Jeep that is whisking her to sleepaway camp. As I watch the car roll off, I concede that her backseat friend is way more compelling than the crazy-haired pajama-bottomed version of me waving madly from the sidewalk. I am here and she is ten. I am at the curb as the limo glides away to the prom. I am at the airport eight years down the road as she flies off to college. I am crying. I hide my tears with a fake sneeze and exhale my way back into the house to find my son snoring, Russian nesting doll-wrapped around tiger, monkey, puppy, and rat.
I turn turn turn around in the toy-littered living room, blind-sided by the quiet, not sure where to go, what to do, how to feel. The magnetic pull of my bed is enervating so I’m back in it dreaming and sweating and stressing about my daughter’s imminent young adulthood. I wake up to my six-year-old son painfully yanking tearing braiding my hair. I carefully lift his hands from my head and place them on my back and beg for a back massage. No way mom. So I sit up and say, dude, we have five days together just the two of us so what are we going to do? He says, pancakes please, I want to eat lots of pancakes. I say, as long as we eat white bean salad with avocados, please, lots of it. Deal, he says.
And then I’m in the kitchen rinsing pre-cooked white beans, spreading them out on a paper towel, patting them dry, sliding them into a bowl. My son whisks together eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. To the beans, I add grated garlic, olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemon juice, herbs, and salt. He sifts flour, baking soda and salt. I prematurely sweep the floor. He clumsily folds splats sprays the wets into the dries.
He covers his pancakes with Nutella while I shower mine with powdered sugar and lemon. We eat. We sigh with delight. And then I wake up to the fact that I have five beautiful days alone with my son, and, unlike my daughter, he loves avocado halves filled with white beans. Lucky me. I am back. I am here. For the moment, it is 2013.
To Make Avocado Bowls with Citrus Herb White Bean Salad
You will have leftovers and they will last beautifully. To 2 cups of cooked white beans (if you're using pre-cooked beans just make sure they're rinsed and patted dry), add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of light-colored vinegar (white wine or champagne), 1 clove of grated or chopped garlic, the juice and zest from half a lemon, a big pinch of salt, and 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination of mint, parsley, basil, or tarragon). Stir and taste.
The beans absorb all kinds of flavor so you’ll probably need to add more of everything. Toast 1 tablespoon pine nuts in the oven or on the stove top. Halve, pit, and peel an avocado. Fill an avocado half with an overflowing scoop of white bean salad. Top with coarse flaky salt, parsley, pine nuts, and additional lemon zest. Drizzle with olive oil. Eat as is or smear on a piece of grilled bread.
Top photo by Phyllis Grant, bottom by James Ransom