People often talk about creativity as being a process. The creative “process” usually comes with its cycle of laying fallow the ideas that need to percolate before they sprout up and become just right. When I was in college and aspired to be a writer, there were moments when I would be moved in a way that made my whole body light up and I knew, when I put pen to paper, something wonderful was about to happen. These days, I often feel that way when I create a new recipe or style a photo. Often I can see pieces of what I want, maybe an ingredient or a particular flavor. Sometimes, I might just use the colors or the theme of the food to dictate the plates and fabrics I’ll choose. Like writing, when I taste the final recipe or look through the viewfinder of my camera and see the dish come to life, I get that same electric feeling and I know that I’ve achieved exactly what I want. It’s a magnificent thing to be able to take what’s only an idea in your mind one day, and turn it into something real the next. We need these moments of brilliance to remind ourselves why we’re here.
Curiosity is an ingredient essential to all creative endeavors and especially cooking. I’ve been curious about mung beans for a while and lately they seemed to keep popping up wherever I happen to be shopping. I’ve never eaten them but I was intrigued by their perfect, diminutive shape and navy, green color. When I cooked some earlier this week, I was surprised at how similar in taste they are to lentils. I also noticed fresh strawberries are making the rounds, so once I let those two things settle in my mind, the rest came together during a 2 am bout of insomnia. One of my brothers used to tell me if I had an idea that I was wrestling with, I should think about it just before going to sleep and the solution would be there when I woke up in the morning. I’m not sure if that’s based in any science, but I like to think that’s a little of what happened this week.
If you’ve never had mung beans, this recipe for Strawberry Mung Bean Salad is a great way to start enjoying them. The mung beans I purchased came from Thailand which naturally made me think of coconut and Thai basil and the rest, is well, here for you to discover.
- 1 cup green mung beans
- 2 cups water
- Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 2 Tablespoons minced shallot
- 2 cups strawberries, stems removed and quartered
- 1 pack thai basil (.66 oz)
- 1 cup coconut flakes, toasted
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Rinse and drain mung beans. Place in a small pot with water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Turn to low and cook until tender, about 40-45 minutes. Drain and rinse and cool in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix together orange juice, honey, shallot and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently fold in strawberries. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to macerate until beans are cooled and salad is ready to assemble.
- In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, toast coconut flakes. Remove thai basil leaves from the stems and cut into long strips or chiffonade.
- In a large serving bowl, gently mix mung bean with macerated strawberries and 1/2 cup of the toasted coconut and thai basil. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Garnish with remaining toasted coconut.
The mung beans can be cooked and chilled a day in advance. Green mung beans like the ones used in this recipe take longer to cook. You can also purchase peeled, yellow mung beans which take less time to cook.
This salad is best enjoyed the day of making it. You want to keep the texture and flavor of the strawberries, coconut and thai basil as fresh as possible.