My first exposure to any black bean and corn salsa was when my wife came home with a bottle of Desert Pepper Trading Company’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa. The realization that a salsa could be more than a light condiment hit me between the eyes as if it were a 50 pound hammer.  For me it’s been a Super Bowl treat since, to get some of that salsa and some Green Mountain Gringo Tortilla Chips and ruin any diet I might have been on.

Aha moment number 2 just came at lunch this morning, when the neighboring division of my company held an open lunch. There was a black bean and corn salsa there. I got a cup, tasted it, and then looked at what was in it. It didn’t seem that far removed from a pico de gallo, and I’ve been making pico these days. Pico de gallo is amazingly good when made fresh. I told myself I’d dig through the blogs, gather some recipes, and then briefly review what I had found. This is going to be a link-filled summary article. It’s more a wish list of things I’d like to consider making some day — at least the easier ones!

Salsa Notes

If you dig though the very nice salsa article on the Wikipedia, you’ll find that pico de gallo is a kind of salsa (salsa cruda). The kind of black bean and corn salsa I’d be interesting in making would probably start as a salsa cruda (Improvements welcome, of course).

Black Bean and Corn salsas

Just doing a web search on black bean and corn salsa gets some workable links, such as the ones here, here, here and here. But if I had any complaint to make, they are using a lot of canned goods, as opposed to frozen or fresh, and they don’t stretch the reader very much or teach much of anything.

The first blog based recipe I ran into was Kimberly’s salsa. It looks good. This recipe by Cheap Ass Chef was the first I had seen to use some lime zest. Spencer’s Kitchen offers a pretty straightforward recipe for the salsa (canned beans though, although one canned ingredient is hardly a problem). Real Mom Kitchen offers a bean and corn salsa that looks really good (uses Italian dressing to add sweet and sour flavors). The blog Royal Tart has a recipe that includes feta cheese, and the 7th Sage’s recipe is one you can cook and can. Last, but hardly least, Innocent Primate’s black bean and corn salsa recipe was really nicely done.  I like the trouble she took to tell people how to roast the peppers that the recipe requires. The difference between Innocent Primate’s directions, and what you get on the average cooking site, is like night and day.

Other salsas

In One Stop Cook’s recipe for Southwestern roll-ups, she presents the first salsa I found that was cooked. The roll-ups look good too.  Janet Joseph has an interesting fresh salsa, one that uses oregano instead of cilantro. Today’s Menu presents a trio of salsas, a pico de gallo, a salsa, and a salsa verde. The blog Your Easy Recipe presents a salsa using canned tomatoes. In the blog Biscuits and Such, a black bean salsa is presented. This one uses a commercial picante sauce as part of the recipe and also involves some cooking.

In the blog Lobster and Fishsticks, a Greek salsa recipe is described. In the blog “And She Can Cook!”, a simple, versatile recipe is shown, one that can become salsa or pico de gallo as needed. On the blog The Foodie Collaborative, the author presents a salsa and salsa verde recipe from a friend of hers. Both look really good.  Finally, on Sacred Chef’s blog, a nice looking smoky red capsicum salsa recipe has been published.

Sweet Salsas

In Cooking With Lindi, a mango salsa is presented as an accompaniment to steak. In this case, rather than cilantro or oregano, the ‘leafy’ component is parsley.  In the blog What’s Cooking, the salsa recipe (accompanying chicken this time) includes not only mango, but orange as well. In Duffek BBQ, a pineapple “salsa” is presented (with instructions for turning it into a salsa, unquoted). The blogger Domestic Diva presents a mango-peach salsa, and in the blog Margaritas in the Afternoon, a pineapple-mango salsa is given.

ca 2:30pm — I have a pot of black beans simmering on the stove, I have done some shopping and have the stuff for pico de gallo (substituting jalapenos for serranos this time), and I have hard red wheat and red quinoa from Mother Nature’s Market soaking on the kitchen table.

Soaking: hard wheat on the left, red quinoa on the right.

Soaking: hard wheat on the left, red quinoa on the right.

I’m thinking along three lines: black beans and rice as the first dish, some pico de gallo, and then a mung bean soup, with some wheat and quinoa added to provide the grain component of the soup. Of these three, it’s with the black beans and rice that I’m winging it the most. Thankfully WordPress has a common tag named rice and beans.

I threw in some salt, marjoram, a bay leaf and a few cubes of ham after about an hour of simmering, just to see what it would do. It has improved the smell of the pot quite a bit. I want the beans soft though, and different recipes I’ve perused are giving different times to simmer. This recipe suggests an hour and a half (but no salt) and this one suggests (with salt) perhaps three hours.  I’ll note the cubes of ham seem to have disappeared by now, melted into the broth of the beans. This recipe looks fantastic, but I’d have to use the same stuff I want to use to make pico.

ca 3:45pm — The pico de gallo is now marinating in the refrigerator. The last batch really didn’t hit its peak of flavor until 2 days after mixing. Today, the tomatoes were huge, the green onion bunch was huge, and the japalenos were huge, so 3 tomatoes, 1 japaleno, 1/2 a yellow onion and a bit more cilantro this time. It’s amazing how much easier it is to mince cilantro when you have an idea of the right tools (this tool, or perhaps that tool) to use.

The beans are whole and soft and on low heat.. I’m trying to reduce the liquid the beans are in. In a lot of recipes I’ve seen so far, they save the bean liquor and use it to cook at other stages, but if we’re sticking to the principles of Louisiana red beans and rice, we’ll just mix beans and rice and some of the liquor as needed. Flavor should evolve in the dish if we just eat some today and save the rest in the fridge.

ca 4:45pm – black beans and rice are done.

The final result: a bowl of black beans and rice.

The final result: a bowl of black beans and rice.

I cooked the rice (1 cup) by first sauteeing it with a bit with celery ( 1 stick) , onion (1/2 smaller yellow onion) , garlic (2 cloves), and a handful of diced ham. I added water (2 cups) and let it simmer a bit (15 to 20 minutes). I forgot the lid and there were some losses, so I had to add more water as I cooked. The end product was good and soft, but a little sticky. The beans were well nigh perfect and the mixture quite edible. My family came home just as I finished. My daughter liked it, my wife decided it was good, but could use some spices.

I need to get my wife to teach me how to use the rice cooker.

ca 6:45pm — The black beans and rice ended up as half our dinner (smoked sausage being the other half). A single serving of bean and rice is all that is left.

ca 9:30pm — Today’s cooking is done.  But just before I started my daughter walked over to my quinoa and said, “Your quinoa is sprouting.”

My reaction was typical. “No it isn’t.”

“Come over here and see, it’s sprouting.”

And of course, my daughter was right. It’s what happens, I guess, when you soak quinoa almost 24 hours. I guess 4 hours is enough.

In any event, I had to precook the wheat for about half an hour, because I anticipated about 25 minutes of cooking for the mung beans, and wheat needs 45-60 minutes of cooking. I cut up a typical assortment of veggies.. 3 celery stalks, carrot sticks equivalent to a couple carrots,  1 yellow onion, 3 cloves of garlic, some remaining mini-pimentos, and the japaleno I didn’t put into the pico de gallo. I cooked the veggies in the pot in olive oil for 5-6 minutes and then added the wheat berries. Afterwards, I added mung beans and covered with about half an inch of water. In the pan I was cooking the wheat in, I added a quart of water and heated it while I cooked the rest (so I could add hot water as needed). 10 minutes after I started with the beans, I added the red quinoa, sprouts and all.

It took longer to cook (40 minutes, instead of the expected 25) than I expected, because I was keeping the heat low, and at times it was just under boiling.  At the end it began getting the color and consistency I like, so I then spiced (much the same as my red lentil soup):

1.5 teaspoons garam masala

0.75 tsp cumin

0.75 tsp coriander

0.75 tsp Jamaican curry powder

mixed peppers, from a grinder (12 twists)

marjoram, thyme, salt, salt substitute, red pepper to taste.

12 drops of a habanero-mango hot sauce.

The result looked something like this:

Mung bean, wheat berry, and red quinoa soup

Mung bean, wheat berry, and red quinoa soup

It’s a good tasting soup, and it’s going to be lunch for the next 3-4 days at work.