The sun was out, David was home, friends were available, and I was itching to get outside and out of the kitchen (well, out of the kitchen after preparing our dinner)... this made for a perfect combo for our first Seattle picnic! I shared photos from our picnic adventure a few weeks ago where the duck family visited and Jack played in the freezing Lake Washington water, but I've been saving this amazing black bean salad recipe that I made for our picnic dinner for a "new recipe" Thursday. The salad actually has 2 recipes, but both are very easy and trust me...its totally worth the multiple steps, because this is a darn good salad! You start by roasting a pint of cherry tomatoes. This is one of my "new things" in the kitchen...the sweetness that unveils itself in the roasting process is amazing. It really opens up a whole new level to the tomato that is unseen by eating them raw.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and toss in a large bowl with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon natural sugar, and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Place the tomatoes and all the oily juices on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.
The tomatoes are ready when they start to brown around the edges. When they are finished, remove from oven and let cool. Keep any unused roasted tomatoes, with the olive oil sludge, in a sealed glass jar for up to one week in the refrigerator.
While the tomatoes are roasting, place about 4 cups of black beans in a bowl and mix gently with the zest and juice of 1/2 of a large lemon, a healthy pinch of kosher salt, a small handful of feat cheese crumbles, and about 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds. DO NOT skip the toasting of the sunflower seeds...it may be the secret ingredient in this dish that sends it over the edge. Man, it's just so yummy! Once the tomatoes have browned and fully caramelized and then cooled off a bit, mix about 3/4 of the amount you roasted (about 3/4 of a pint) into the black beans.
Serve the salad at room temperature so the flavors can be singled out and really shine through. Carry to a picnic or make it part of a picnic dinner at your own dining table. Enjoy!