Sweet and Spicy Tomato and Kidney Bean Salad

One of the best things about not eating meat is that you can make meals without having to actually cook anything. Just cut, combine and stir. Whether you're in a hurry, feeling lazy or just want that fresh crunch, a plant based diet gives you the freedom to cook without literally cooking. 

Especially as the weather gets warmer, it's convenient to just cut and combine. It's also surprisingly tasty to keep those fresh ingredients in their natural state. 

The textures and flavors are vibrant and exciting. 

A little salt, a little acid, some  fat, a spice or two and you're all set with a delicious meal. 

1 can dark red kidney beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 poblano pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 long hot pepper, diced
1 serrano, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls olive oil
2 1/2 tsps salt
1 1/2 tsps crushed pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. 

That's it. You're done. Enjoy your not so hard work.

Light Charcoal Grill No Lighter Fluid No Chimney

Grilling season is supposed to be upon us here in the northeast. For some reason it still isn't, even though it's nearly June. But there were a few warm days recently. And if you're like me you seized the moment and broke out the grill with some corn or potatoes or garlic.

I use a small Weber Smokey Joe Silver table top charcoal grill. It's basically just a big metal pot and lid and some metal grates. It's more than big enough for my purposes. It easily holds 6 ears of corn or 6 potatoes.

When I first got it I bought Matchlight charcoal figuring it would save me a product and a step. But the light fluid tainted the flavor of the food. It all tasted like I was eating a big ole Bic disposable.

So I did a little research and decided that plain charcoal could successfully be lit using crumpled up newspaper. There's no need to use a secondary smoker device to ignite your coals. That's just the corporate man trying to sell you something else you don't really need. I've lit my grill numerous times with just leftover paper. It doesn't have to be newspaper. It can be flyers, old crossword puzzles, anything non-shiny.

It really quite easy. The grill has two grates. The lower one that holds the coals and the upper one that holds the food. Under the lower one you add your crumpled papers. For my small grill four sheets of small local newspaper do the trick. Crumple them pretty good til they're balled up nicely. Pretty much fill up the bottom of the grill with balled up paper. Put your lower grate directly on top. On top of that arrange your charcoal in a pyramid. I think it works best when the pyramid is off center. I start it off to one side and leave a small open space at the other end. I like to arrange the coal standing upward, rather than resting flat side down. To increase oxygen flow to the fire and heat.

How much coal you put into your pyramid depends on how hot you want your fire and how big your grill is. Simple math is, more coals equal more hot.

When your pyramid is complete it's time to light the paper. Make sure the lower vents in the grill are fully open. Fire needs air. Then light the papers in several locations around the grill. Making certain the flame spreads well and evenly. Monitor the flames until they have spread below the coals. Then just walk away. Keep an eye on them, but leave them be. In about 10-15 minutes you should see the first signs of your lowest brickettes turning that ashy color. Be patient. It'll take at least 25 minutes before the upper most on the pyramid will also turn grey.

Then you're ready to start cooking on them. Use a tongs to knock down your pyramid into a more even layer of hot charcoals. Some will still be quite hot and even glowing red. This is normal. Use your tongs to replace your upper grate to your grill. Add your fresh corn or potatoes or whatever food you're cookng. Cover your grill with the lid fully vented.

Enjoy properly charcoal grilled food without lighter fluid or special chimney gadgets.