Salads al Fresco

Black Bean Salad
I thought fall was my favorite season until I started seeing metaphors in changing colors, falling leaves, and the need for layering clothes. Just this year, my mind went through a shift in tangible attractions. Flowers, flirty ensembles, chilled foods, and refreshing drinks are more appealing than ever before.

We’re in the thick of spring and I’m gravitating to foods that bring life to the season. I’m going for super fresh foods—simple dishes requiring little cooking with the added health benefit. Let’s attribute that to the vibrancy of pretty gardens and inviting trips to the beach. But, whatever the reason, there’s no doubt spending time with friends al fresco is better than being indoors.  I’d bet we can all agree the most easy warm weather dish to prepare is the spring salad.

A bowl or plate is clean canvas to arranging the prettiest of light ingredients. I’m committed to making two different ones each week. My go-to salad, which kicks off my al fresco season, is a black bean salad. My good friend Simone is just about as Cuban as I am. She’s Brazilian, but raised in the most typically Cuban neighborhood of Miami.

She has an incredibly tasty salad I’ve taken to my own and modified to my liking. It’s a smash hit every time I make it, no matter the occasion. It’s the most perfect salad anyone can enjoy. It’s been so popular I’ve made it in many of my cooking classes.

Read Related: Make Friends With Farro: Farro Kale Salad

You may think it’s too easy, because you can use canned beans. But, between the crunch of the green pepper, the aromatic flavor of the cilantro, and juice of the olive oil and vinegar…it’s like having dessert before dinner. Or for those of us that don’t like traditional green leaf salads (like myself), this is a great option!

Drain the beans, chop up your vegetables, add your oils, flavoring agents, etc…and combine. It’s simple and super fast (under 10 minutes to make!) And it’s healthy. Just the way I like it. Make it for your next dinner or your next dinner party. No one will be disappointed. Oh yeah, and it’s great over plain white rice, too!

Serves: 6-8

2-15 oz cans black beans, rinsed & drained
¼ cup red onion, diced
¼ green or red bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup cilantro, rough chop
4 TBSP olive oil
2 TSP red wine vinegar
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
1 lemon or lime


  1. Rinse beans.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
  3. Garnish with cilantro.
  4. Serve with crostini or as a side dish.
  5. Serve chilled or room temperature.