Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh, I Don't Know What to Title This One. Happy August First, I Guess.

Overheard at My Sister’s Baby Shower:

On a handmade stuffed “Fuggly” doll: “Does that thing come with rolling papers?”

On something his mother did to make him blossom: “Stuff Miracle Gro suppositories up my butt.”

On politics, in mixed political company: “I ran for city council, and I LOST TWICE! Because everyone in my town is a FRIGGIN’ REPUBLICAN!”

On our scintillating assortment of games: “No, I don’t really want to play.”

On the Fuggly doll again, while sitting next to my Grandma: “I used to smoke a LOT of that stuff!”

Grandma, on the range of baby gifts: “Socks, again?”

Later in the evening, at our second event of the day (I know! It’s like the life I always wanted was finally delivered), I saw that another partygoer had brought a black bean and corn salad. Immediately, I grew clammy and agitated. This was not part of the plan. And when we deviate from the plan, things happen in my cranium that are just not pretty. Brain cells start smashing into each other like mini car wrecks, and dials and meters are just spinning wildly like in every movie about a nuclear plant about to melt down. You see, we had all arranged, via email, what each guest would contribute. Marty had the bacon covered in cheese, Ed had the cheese and pea pasta salad, and some people I don’t know brought the dilled cheese curds. (Are you sensing a theme here?) And I, Jess Riley, was slated to bring the black bean and corn salad to tickle palates and alleviate any cheese-related binding.

People, this is my signature dish. Katherine Hepburn had padded shoulder pads. Audrey Hepburn had pearls. I have black bean and corn salad and very regular BMs.

Immediately, I tried the competitor. And I’ll admit no shortage of smugness in my voice when I told my new BFF Michelle (Hi Michelle!) that the non-Jess Riley salad was mealy and bland, whereas mine was crisp, juicy, and swimming in enough garlic to leap from real life to film and kill Gary Oldman in every copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula ever made.

I fielded numerous requests for the recipe, which I fake-modestly agreed to share. So I present to you, dear readers, for the first time ever: Jess Riley’s Secret Signature Summer Salad & Salsa. Delicious with Tostitos Scoops. Dangerous competing with my version.

Serves: Oh, I don’t know, depends how piggish everyone is.

The Players
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cup frozen sweet corn kernels
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ medium red onion, diced
3 green onions, chopped (thought you might be tired of “dicing” by now)
2 ripe but firm avocados, diced (again with the dicing)

The Brine
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
½ cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced (smaller than a dice!)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
dash cumin

In salad bowl, combine beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, bell pepper, and onions. Toss gently until the mixture resembles a Benetton ad from the eighties.

In a small jar with tight-fitting lid: Mix lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and spices. Cover and shake until everyone’s getting along swimmingly.

Introduce the brine to the players. Refrigerate overnight, bring to the party, peel off the cover to release a garlic-scented cloud, sit back, drink a margarita, scratch a mosquito bite, and collect the compliments like trading cards. Pretend to be modest, and tell them Jess Riley sent you.

I have a lot to learn about food photography.

(Jason's comment: "It looks like someone ate a bunch of jellybeans and barfed.")

Meanwhile, back at the monarch ranch:

As of today, I have released 4 fluttery, delicate monarchs into the sunny skies. 3 were girls, and 1 was a boy. And guess what? Now I have empty nest syndrome! Well, it’s not empty nest so much as “Empty Giant Mesh Bag” syndrome. Here’s Darcy, all grown up. I almost hit her with my car a few hours after I released her. She really should fly a little higher. Fly to the light, Darcy! Find Carol Ann! Fly to the light!


  1. Even though its morning I am craving that salad! No doubt that yours kicked the other salad's ass!!

  2. That salad looks awesome, jellybean barf photo, puhlease.

    And congrats on your baby monarchs!

    What is a fuggly doll? I'm off to google.

  3. Gorgeous progeny you got there. I just printed up a copy of that salad, 'cause we're having that next time I make chicken. Doesn't it seem perfect with chicken? Oh, wait, you're veggie, so probably the answer would be 'No, GROSS'. Oh well. ;)

  4. OK, you've got me giggling. AS USUAL. You almost hit her with your car. BWAHAHAH!

    "She really should fly a little higher."

    I'm crying now. Crying!

  5. I can't wait to try this recipe! I'm actually drooling! And great timing, too, because I just happen to be going to a potluck this weekend and I think it's too hot to bring the sausage bread my hubby wants me to make. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Anonymous2:38 PM

    I'm familiar with Uglydolls--is the fugly doll a homemade version of the same? Or was this doll's fug completely unintentional?

    Loving the saladsa. Where I live, a lot of people enjoy a similar dish with black-eyed peas instead of black beans--but it's called Redneck Caviar, and it's most commonly eaten on Saltines.

    Grandma's dig about the socks was rich.

    I really dig that the only other girl I know with the same first name as mine is a butterfly.

  7. Looks yummy to me! I'll be sure to pass the recipe on, as any edible dish I bring to a family party will be assumed to have been created by someone else...

  8. Anonymous6:04 PM

    Jess I too printed out that salad. It does look yummy.

    Here's a retarded question. Why are you growing moarchs? Is this a hobby that people have?

  9. Anonymous7:27 PM

    Oh my GOD. You totally stole my recipe. I'm serious that is the recipe that I, having made up in my own head, right down to the dash of cumin, having been making for YEARS.

    Now we can never attend the same potluck party. It's the lime juice that totally makes it. But, you have forgotten one very important ingredient - fresh cilantro. AHA!

  10. That's the kind of baby shower I would happily attend. As long as alcohol was included too.

    Thank you for printing the recipe for that salad. Saves me the trouble of emailing you. I could use some regularity.

  11. The black bean salad sounds freakin' heavenly. I might have to make that as a "Yeah, it sucks we work the weekend but look! We got FOOD!" treat for my co-workers.

    The butterflies are gorgeous. I want some baby butterflies of my own now.

    Also, the weed reference in regards to the fugly doll made me snort-laugh. Repeatedly. I totally needed that. Thank you.

  12. Suzy: I raise them to help increase their population, basically.

    The USDA on threats to monarchs: "Habitat destruction; mowing of highway rights-of-way, ditches, and pastures, which destroy milkweed; collisions with cars and trucks; and insecticides all reduce monarch populations. The most common fatality for monarch caterpillars is being eaten by other insects. Fewer than 10 percent of caterpillars make to it to adulthood."


    I planted a bunch of milkweed & left some of the caterpillars on the plants--a few days later they'd all been eaten. So, I do what I can.

  13. LMAO! It sounded really good until the jelly-bean-barf comment. I'm kidding. It looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  14. What Jason said!

    But...I wanna eat it anyway. Something is definitely wrong with me.

  15. I loved this bit:

    This was not part of the plan. And when we deviate from the plan, things happen in my cranium that are just not pretty. Brain cells start smashing into each other like mini car wrecks, and dials and meters are just spinning wildly like in every movie about a nuclear plant about to melt down.

    This is my brain you are describing I'm sure!

  16. Socks again!

    I swear my own grandmother said that at my shower too.

    I can only assure you that all of them will be lost within three months. And not in pairs either.

  17. Anonymous6:14 PM

    HI BFF! I miss you so much...
    Can I tell you that the battle in my bowels, after the absurd amount of cheese curds and bean salad we consumed that night, was frightening. The noise my gut made woke up my husband. Twice.
    Now that's good times!

    Your fluttery children are beautiful. I'm so proud of you! Best not to kill them with your car ...seems like a lot of wasted effort raising them then!

  18. I can't wait to make that salad, and I'm having a party today.

  19. That salad is a party for the palate. Ummm.

    No one dares make that mistake again.

  20. Anonymous6:13 AM

    I love a black bean and corn salad that is crisp, flavorful and well made. Yours sounds like a winner.

  21. Everyone is growing Monarchs! What's wrong with me?

    (Your salad looks wonderful. Don't pay attention to hubby LOL!)

  22. The Gary Oldman thing totally got me goin'. Hilarious!

    How DOES one sex a butterfly, anyhow?

  23. I make a bean and corn salsa salad like that too, sans the peppers though, and adding cilantro and I use a balsamic vinegar!

    But yours looks nice, for chewed up jelly beans...

  24. visiting from j's blog to borrow your bean salad recipe. looks yummy!

  25. Wow. The salad looks really delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I'll try this one and hopefully it will taste good as what i expected.