Black Bean Salsa
Do you collect souvenirs when you travel? My grandparents have always traveled a lot, and when I was a kid, my grandma would bring me back one of those decorative/collector spoons from different states. I had quite a collection going! I was never big on collecting anything specific myself – a t-shirt here, a mug there – up until a few years ago. I think it started during a long weekend trip that my Chief Culinary Consultant and I took to the Outer Banks. We were in a gift shop and I came across some regional cookbooks that caught my eye. I bought three, and I’ve never looked back. Every new place I visit, I try to make a point to get to a bookstore and check out the “local” shelf of the cookbook section. I always find hidden gems! I love picking up regional cookbooks that reflect the area I’m visiting. Plus, a cookbook is so much more functional than another over-sized t-shirt in a dresser drawer that is slowly being taken over by Penguins hockey apparel, right?!
I hit the jackpot on our last trip to Florida this past March, when I found two cookbooks to snatch up. One is a Junior League compilation from Boca Raton and the other (where this recipe originates) is all about Latin American, Cuban, and Caribbean cuisine. I thought about a black bean salsa last summer, but never got around to making it, so when I saw it in the cookbook, there was no doubt I needed to make it. My Chief Culinary Consultant and I DVR Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable on ESPN each afternoon (you know I’m a sports junkie!). It’s a show hosted by Dan Le Batard, but the best part is that his dad, Papi, is his co-host. Papi totally makes the show, love him! They are a Cuban family living in Miami, and almost every day Papi mentions black beans and rice. How he loves it, how he ate it, how he’s going to eat it. I was especially excited to get my black bean salsa inspiration from a cookbook while down in his little corner of the world. No doubt Papi would approve of this salsa!
Once back from Florida with a gazillion pages in the cookbook doggy-eared, I made it a point to get the black bean salsa on this summer’s calendar. Obviously, I didn’t want to waste any time, so I made it on Memorial Day. It was completely gone… on Memorial Day. It lasted less than 12 hours. Did I mention that only two of us ate it? That should tell you all you need to know!
The amount of flavor and texture in this salsa is truly outstanding. There are so many fresh ingredients; it’s bright and flavorful, and actually healthy (if you don’t count the chips)! The recipe starts with soaking dried beans and then cooking them in a derived stock of vegetables and seasonings. Believe it or not, this was my first time ever working with dried beans. (I’ll wait while you pick your jaw up off the floor.) I’ve always been an “open the can, rinse, drain, use” type. Although it took time, I loved soaking and cooking the beans. I got such a sense of satisfaction from it. I knew how they’d be seasoned and that they wouldn’t be drowning in sodium. I sort of felt like Donna Reed… in the best of ways. (I loved Donna Reed on Nick at Nite when I was a kid!) However, if you need something quick, there is a note at the bottom of the recipe about using canned beans and adjusting the seasonings.
This might be the dawning of a new bean era for me. I see soaking, cooking and canning (or freezing) in my future. Do you use canned beans, or do you cook your own?
Black Bean Salsa
Firm-Cooked Black Beans:
1 pound dried black beans, picked through and rinsed
1 small onion, cut in half
2 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
½ green bell pepper, cored and seeded
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bouquet garni of 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme & 3 springs fresh parsley tied in a piece of cheesecloth
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups firm-cooked black beans
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and finely diced
1 poblano chile, seeded and finely diced
½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely diced
½ cup corn kernels (fresh & cooked or frozen & thawed)
½ cup finely diced red onion
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. For the Firm-Cooked Black Beans: In a large, heavy stockpot, soak the beans in cold water to cover by at least 3 inches for no less than 4 hours, or overnight.
2. Add the vegetables, garlic, bouquet garni, cumin and oregano to the pot of beans and soaking water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
3. Reduce the heat and gently simmer the beans, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Add water as necessary to keep the beans submerged.
4. Season the beans with salt and pepper during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cold water. Remove and discard the vegetables and bouquet garni. The beans are now ready to be used in the salsa, or they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
5. Assemble the Salsa: Combine all of the ingredients for the salsa in a mixing bowl and toss well. Add more salt or lime juice as needed. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Note #1: If you do not have cheesecloth for the bouquet garni, you can also use a coffee filter.
Note #2: If you prefer to not cook the beans yourself, you can use 2 cups of canned (rinsed and drained) black beans. If you do this, be sure to taste for seasoning adjustments. You will likely need to use more cumin, salt and pepper.