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Black bean and corn salad for Cinco de Mayo. May 3, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Alert readers may recall that our friend Ben and I made a New Year’s resolution to teach ourselves Spanish—a language neither of us has ever taken, rather humiliating given our collective total of eight—this year. (That is not, I hasten to say, to imply that we can remember, much less speak or read, most of them today. With languages more than with many skills, it’s use it or lose it.) Using the Pimsleur Conversational Spanish CD series, our progress has been steady, if not speedy; we’ve now reached Lesson 10, and can say we like (or don’t like) beer, and ask how to get to the bathroom.

We love the Pimsleur method, which teaches adults new languages the way children learn them: through hearing and repetition. Which means that, though our vocabulary is still quite primitive, our pronunciation isn’t bad. I’ve even finally grasped that “cinco” is “sink-o,” not “chink-o,” as it would be in Italian. Now, if I could just stop dropping in the French words for the Spanish when responding to the CD prompts! But I digress.

Point being that this Cinco de Mayo, we should be able to create some festive dishes and pronounce them with flair, and even ask each other in Spanish if we’d like a margarita, some sangria, or even the dreaded beer and respond correctly without breaking stride. Hooray!

Given that Cinco de Mayo is just days away, it’s definitely time to start preparing for the festivities. And for whatever reason, I’ve had black bean-corn salad on the brain this year as a make-ahead dish. This salad is very easy to make and it can be really good, but it also suffers from a bit of an identity problem. It’s sometimes prepared and served as salsa rather than salad, which I find off-putting. And it sometimes has such a high corn-and-red-pepper-to-black-bean ratio that it looks more like Pennsylvania Dutch chowchow than black bean-corn salad. I definitely think that, for the right flavor, you need twice as many black beans as corn kernels and bell pepper dice.

So, here’s the recipe I’ve devised and plan to make:

             Silence’s Simple Black Bean-Corn Salad

1 large or 2 small cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 ear roasted white corn, cooled, kernels cut off  

1 red or orange bell pepper, cored and diced (or half of each)

1/2 red onion, diced

2 small or 1 large paste tomato, chopped

2 roasted garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced

1/2-1 fresh jalapeno or jarred chipotle pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons fresh hot salsa

1 tablespoon each fresh lime and lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare, or to taste

Romaine lettuce leaves for serving

sour cream, shredded white sharp Cheddar or mixed Mexican cheese, jarred (cooked) salsa, minced fresh cilantro, chopped green onions (scallions), salt, and lemon pepper or black pepper and lemon slices for topping

Combine all ingredients except for citrus juices, olive oil, salt or Trocomare, Romaine leaves, and toppings, stirring well to mix. In a separate bowl, combine citrus juices, olive oil, and salt or Trocomare, stirring well to mix. Pour dressing over bean-corn mix and stir well to blend. Cover and refrigerate overnight to give flavors a chance to marry. To serve, prepare individual salad bowls lined with Romaine leaves; add a scoop of the black bean-corn salad to each. Set out bowls of sour cream, cheese, salsa, sliced lemons, minced cilantro, and chopped scallions, with shakers of salt and pepper, and allow diners to help themselves to whatever toppings they desire.

Is this an authentic recipe? Since it’s one of mine, obviously not, yet it contains authentic ingredients and I somehow suspect that no black bean-corn salad has really made it South of the Border; rather, we’re looking at Southwest fusion here. I’ve seen recipes for versions of this salad that sub red wine vinegar or even tequila for the citrus juices, and add interesting ingredients like shredded radish, epazote, jicama, and/or celery. I’ve also seen recipes that use canned or frozen corn. After plowing through all my Mexican, Mexican-inspired, and Southwest cookbooks, it looks like this salad can be pretty much whatever you want it to be.  Just please, hold the beer, unless you’re drinking it rather than adding it to the salad.

And please, if you have a favorite recipe, share it with us!

             ‘Til next time,

                         Silence

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