A staple cookbook of my childhood was Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book. My mom does not at all hate to cook, and I learned how to cook by sous cheffing contentedly at her elbow. But Peg Bracken’s dry wit and realistic take on domestic life — her insistence that a woman (still always a woman) didn’t have to spend her days stuck in the kitchen cooking for her husband and kids — must have been, for women coming of age in the 50s and 60s, like a swipe of vinegar across a cloudy window. Refreshing, sharp, and clarifying.
We learned Crazy Cake from Peg Bracken, we learned Elevator Lady Spice Cookies (which Cassoulet contributor — and my sister — Libby Gruner has written about), and we learned Aunt Bebe’s Bean Bowl, an open-the-cans-and-dump salad with a sweet dressing that was a staple of our church potlucks and picnics. “Don’t be afraid of that three-quarters of a cup of sugar, incidentally, as I was,” Bracken writes. “I thought, ‘This will never work out!’ and I thought, further, “Who is that fond of beans?’ But it did and I was.”
I loved that bean salad, but I cannot bring myself to buy canned green or wax beans these days, and making it without canned beans just seems to defeat the purpose. So here’s my mom to the rescue, with her updated bean salad for today’s kitchens, a whole lot fresher and greener but still just as easy. Don’t be afraid of those raisins, incidentally, as I was; I thought, this will never work out! And, I thought further, who is that fond of beans? But it did, and I am.
Black Bean & Chick Pea Salad
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup fresh cilantro or chopped Italian parsley
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
15 ounces chick peas
15 ounces black beans
In a small saucepan, combine the raisins, vinegar, oil and sugar and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, toss chickpeas and black beans, cilantro (or parsley), scallions & raisin mixture with cumin, plus salt and pepper to taste.