Beans, beans the magical fruit.
Did you know beans are technically a fruit? According to the Mayo Clinic, botanists define fruit as the part of a plant that develops from a flower. It’s also the section of the plant that contains the seeds. The other parts of plants (stems, leaves, roots snd even flower buds) are considered vegetables. That technically makes a bean a fruit along with the avocado, peapod, corn kernels and even cucumbers. I never knew this. I always thought that beans are called fruit in the bean poem because it rhymed with the word toot. A little poetic license. Apparently the poem is technically correct. You learn something new everyday.
Days that are called Eat Your so-and-so Day are always a bit bossy to me. It’s not about the the celebration of the food, it’s the decree that you have to eat them. I suppose that’s the celebration of any food, but by calling the day this makes it more of a demand rather than a holiday to honor the essence of the food. There’s less room for interpretation. To celebrate, I had to eat beans. I could do that. I just had to figure out in what form I should eat them. We were heading over Cherie & Pete’s house later in the day for a little Independence Day Eve family picnic, so it was the perfect platform to make something with beans and bring to the party. Not only was I going to eat beans, but I was going to serve them to everyone so they could eat beans too. After some quick thinking, I decided to make Texas Caviar – always a fan favorite.
My other options were making a layered bean dip with some refried beans or to make baked beans. I am not a big fan of baked beans (in truth, I’ve never had them) so I skipped that recipe because I wanted to make something I like. Then I opted against the bean dip because to make that, I would have wanted to put some guacamole in as one of the layers and I had no ripe avocados. The Texas Caviar would be perfect. It’s essentially a mix of beans, corn and tomatoes that you serve with chips. It’s a bean salsa really, but it’s refreshing and perfect for picnics. It was originally created in 1940 by Helen Corbitt, a native New Yorker who later became Director of Food Service for the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Helen made hers with black-eyed peas but once her creation started becoming more popular, the recipe was altered and changed to include all kinds of beans and good Tex-Mex flavors. There are a ton of recipes for it online, but for today, I just kind of winged it and made what I felt would go good together. It’s that kind of recipe.
I started with black-eyed peas and black beans which I drained and then added to a bowl. I added in some sweet corn kernels (from a can) and then some diced red onion and garlic. Next, I diced up some tomatoes and then combined all in the bowl. I seasoned it with some salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder and then poured in some Good Seasoning dressing to bring it all together. The last thing I added in was the fresh cilantro. In the picture below, there is no cilantro because I held off for a second because I thought Cherie did not like that particular herb. Some people have a genetic variation in their DNA that makes them perceive cilantro as having a soapy taste (for real – it’s in their DNA). I thought Cherie had this affliction, but she did not, so once I had confirmation she wouldn’t spit it out at me, I added in chopped cilantro after the photo was taken. I’m glad too because cilantro makes this dish that must better.
You serve this with Tostitos Scoops. You just need that kind of chip – one with a capacity for lifting heavier salsas and one with a reserve to hold more (not unlike a shovel). Texas caviar is always a fan favorite. This recipe ended up being pretty good too. When we got to Cherie’s, we added it to her array of snacks (which is always plentiful). There were lots of fresh veggies and fruits, cheese and crackers, queso sauce and chips. It was quite the spread. I ate my share of beans as did everyone else. It’s always satisfying to see people enjoying what you bring to a party, but it was especially rewarding to see I got everyone celebrating National Eat Your Beans Day.
For dinner, Pete and Cherie cooked up a storm. There were cheeseburgers and hot dogs and sausages. There were all kinds of salads – green salads and picnic salads like potato and macaroni. It was a spread fit for kings. Cherie also made some baked beans and I decided I needed to eat these too, it being the holiday and all. They were pretty good. I could see why people are a fan, although I still need some time to ease in to them. There’s a warm flavor to baked beans and I think I was craving more refreshing tastes. Still, I ate my beans.
It was also National Chocolate Wafer Day and I had decided to celebrate this day as well. I think I was feeling guilty about my celebration shortcomings over the last few days so I wanted to make up for it. I also wanted to bring a dessert to the party too, so it worked out well. I’m kind of new to the Chocolate Wafer cookie. I used them before at Christmas for some ice cream sandwiches. They are just plain thin chocolate cookies – no chips, no nuts, no nothing. Just the cookie, but they have a really good texture and deep chocolate flavor to them. I decided to make an ice cream pie with them and yes, if you are keeping score at home, this would be my third day celebrating with ice cream. I couldn’t find the exact recipe I wanted, but I read through a couple and decided to wing this as well using the other recipes for inspiration. I started by making a pie crust out of the wafer cookies. This recipe was from Martha Stewart.
You essentially just blend up the cookies and then add in melted butter and some sugar. You take that and then form a pie crust by pushing the crumbs into the bottom of a pie dish. Then you bake it for ten minutes. When it cooled, I scooped in some Fudge Swirl ice cream from Warwick Ice Cream. When I was selecting what ice cream to use, I kind of lingered for a while looking at all my options. I was going to go for Coffee Ice Cream, but I though kids might be eating this, so I wanted something more subtle. Vanilla ice cream with fudge swirled throughout seemed like the right answer, especially balanced against the chocolatey crust. I had let the ice cream soften a little so I could work with it. I scooped it into the pie crust and then smoothed out the top. When it was all even and nice-nice, I topped it with nine or ten whole wafer cookies. I thought this would get more of the wafer taste in there and add some texture to the middle of each bite. I stashed it in the freezer for the next few hours. I was worried it wouldn’t set in time, but when I checked on it, it froze right back up and we were in good shape. Right before we left for Cherie’s, I took it out and sprinkled the top with caramel and chocolate sauce. Then I mixed up some whipped cream and spread it across the top. It needed color so I sprinkled some rainbow decorations on top.
When we got to Cherie’s, I threw this into her freezer so it wouldn’t melt away. That allowed the whipped cream to freeze over too which made it perfect. We had a fun night at our picnic. We watched the kids run from pool to trampoline to swings and to pool and you were just filled with that joy of childhood summer by just watching them. We had our dinners and were all full. The day started to fade to night, the bugs came out and Pete started a bonfire so marshmallows could be roasted and some fireworks exploded. We started getting tired and soon people started leaving. We decided it was time to go home too but before we left, I wanted to eat some of the pie, so I snuck back to the freezer, cut us a piece and wrapped it up to go. I left the rest for Cherie and family. Is that a social blunder? I don’t know, I just was curious about how it came out, plus I had an obligation to eat it in order to truly celebrate the holiday. We thanked Cherie and Pete and snuck out. We got home about 9:30.
When we got home, we were tired, hot and covered in bug spray. We just wanted to shower and go to bed, but we had a piece of pie that was starting to melt, so we sat down at the kitchen table and split the piece. I tend to eat things faster than Lola so I was into my third or fourth bite before Lola took her first. I was enjoying myself. Then I watched Lola’s eyes after her first nibble. They came to life with delight. She said I did it – I made a Carvel ice cream cake. She was really impressed. I was too. I didn’t think it would come out like this, but it was awesome. The crust was the star which is appropriate for Chocolate Wafer Day. It was thick and crunchy and chocolatey. The ice cream was the right choice bringing in that creamy vanilla with fudge throughout. The cookies I had put between the ice cream and the whipped cream had softened and soaked in all the goodness around it. That layer had an ice cream sandwich texture to it. This was fantastic. I was proud of myself for this one, because a lot could have gone wrong. Proper etiquette be damned, I’m so glad we took a piece home to try.
This was a day of celebration. Actually it was day of being hot and being eaten by bugs. It was spent making food and then waiting. But once the party got going, we let the celebration begin. Texas caviar is a great recipe for any party and you usually find that most people love it, excepting those cilantro mutants. And even though the night got too long to share our pie at the party, it was the perfect summertime party dessert. Cold ice cream, crunchy cookie crust, whipped cream and fudge. All we needed were sparklers and whistling skyrockets. It felt good to put a real day of celebration in, especially on a day where the whole country is celebrating. There’ll be more tomorrow too. You can hear the explosions in the sky, although that just may be the aftermath of enjoying a day devoted to a musical fruit.
Next up: National Barbecued Spareribs Day