Many of you who read this column are vegetarians not afraid to vocalize your strong preference (and judgement of those who do) to not eat flesh. Many of you are carnivores who would not be caught dead eating something as crunchy as a sprouted salad and are not afraid to sling hurtful names at those who might want to. But, this is a post about peace between us all.
It is an article concerning coexistence and acceptance both of self and others. It is a piece about the best of all possible worlds. No matter which side you fall to, I can promise with full confidence, if you have just one bite of this recipe, your mind will be opened to new possibilities of love and acceptance. Imagine, all that from a salad.
Some years ago I attended a Pre-Industrial Pig Dinner put on by a group of gypsy cooks from Wisconsin who call themselves The Underground Food Collective. A farmer had raised a Red Waddle pig for them, and this merry band of cooks was determined to use this pork in its entirety by the most creative means possible.
Red Waddle is a heritage breed of pig. The animals have considerably more fat than conventionally raised pigs, making them less desirable by the industry but more desirable by lovers of fatty pork, like me. Most of the farmers raising these pigs are small scale, and if you find Red Waddle Pork for sale, buy it—it’s pretty delicious stuff.
One of the dishes served by the traveling gypsy cooks was a salad that featured a bacon dressing. That in itself is not a creative way to use pork product—bacon dressings are age-old. But The Collective members threw in a curveball. They sprouted mung beans and whole lentils and several other beans to make an über-healthy salad before dressing it with the fattiest part of an already extra-fatty animal.
The resulting dish was as confusing as it was wonderful. Each bite tasted both good and bad for me; it felt nutritious and naughty. It was nutty and crunchy and smokey. The bacon fat coated my mouth with luxury while the sprouts cut through with healthful, tannic intensity. I loved it, and when you’re ready to open your mind to the possibility of coexistence, you will too.
Sprout Bacon Salad
1/2 cup mung beans
1/2 cup whole black lentils (urad dal)
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
fine sea salt to taste
Cover beans and lentils with water by 3 inches and let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain, then place in a large bowl and cover loosely with a damp paper towel. Let stand at room temperature, remoistening the paper towel as needed and rinsing sprouts once a day, until sprouts are 2 to 3 inches, 3 to 4 days. Rinse sprouts.
Cook bacon in a large heavy skillet until browned 6 to 8 minutes. Let bacon cool to warm in skillet. Place shallot, zest, juice, parsley and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in bacon and any fat in skillet, then stir in sprouts. Season with salt to taste.