I bet it is no surprise that one of my favorite ways to relax on days when it is too hot to be outside is to travel through my ever-growing library of cookbooks, chef biographies and eco farming articles. You too, huh? So the other particularly hot day, I was sitting in my living room with a bunch of culinary references—some just torn shreds of articles and recipes—looking for what I could do with my latest farmers market haul.
In my beloved original Moosewood Cookbook (now held together in loose page segments by tape and paperclips) I landed on one of my favorite Mollie Katzan signature recipes: Brazilian Black Bean Soup. I had everything I needed, except for one big orange. It sounded SOOOOOOO good, except….it was nearly 100 degrees outside and soup is…hot…. I turned the page and kept going.
But an hour later I was still thinking about the rich tangy-sweet flavors of this vegan soup. So I decided to turn back and turn this favorite recipe on its head a bit. I took the ingredients in the soup (well most of them) and made a robust salsa instead! Almost entirely local (except that orange, the beans and those spices, which are all Penzeys), this turned out to be a crowd pleaser—I took it to a little get-together, and it disappeared almost instantly. It is different and interesting and cold and fresh. What more is there to say?
And if it reminds you of classic Pico De Gallo, I’m not surprised. Many of us use some of these ingredients for our Picos. But you’ll find this is quite different as soon as you spoon it onto your chip or over your gilled delicacy. Definitely a nod to exotic Brazil. It seems particularly well suited for fish and is a great use for leftover black beans. Be brave! Sé valiente!
- One cup cooked black beans (or canned, if you must)
- Two large ears sweetcorn, cleaned well, brushed with oil and grilled to a nice char
- Assortment of whole spices, toasted and crushed (For me, this was two teaspoons each, cumin seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, black peppercorns.)
- One teaspoon coarse sea salt, or to taste
- Pinch of your favorite crushed hot red pepper (I chose Aleppo and it was a generous pinch.)
- One large orange, peeled, seeded and chopped small
- One-half cup diced red onion
- Four cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
- One medium carrot, diced
- One large red bell pepper, diced
- One large ripe tomato, diced
- One-half cup minced cilantro
- Good olive oil for drizzle
- A tablespoon or two red wine vinegar
- Diced ripe avocado for topper, optional
- Begin by making your beans if, like me, you always make your own. I soak mine overnight, rinse well and cook low and slow in filtered water with some herbs, usually sprigs of sage and thyme with a fresh bay leaf. If you are using canned, drain well and rinse. If you've cooked your own, I suggest making extra for salads or other meals throughout your week; just drain when tender and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- You can also make your corn ahead. Grilling for supper tonight? Throw on a couple extra ears and store in the refrigerator until needed. When ready to add to the salsa cut off the cob. I really do not suggest canned or frozen corn here.
- Get all your spices ready by dry toasting them in a small cast iron skillet just until they become fragrant, cooling then crushing. Just set aside until you want to add to the salsa. Adding your coarse salt to your spices as you crush makes them easier to get a powdery consistency.
- Get a large bowl with a lid, so that you can make your salsa when it’s convenient and store in the fridge overnight; in fact, it improves with age. Add your diced onion, minced garlic, diced carrot, diced bell pepper, chopped orange (Don't lose that juice!) and diced tomato. Give this a good stir. Chop your cilantro fine and stir it in.
- In a small bowl, combine your toasted, crushed spices with your salt and pepper of choice. Start with a little salt—you can always add more. Add the spice mixture to the salsa and stir well.
- Drizzle everything with your best fruity olive oil and generous sprinkles of red wine vinegar. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you are adding the avocado, do it just before serving.
The cooking that is involved here goes as follows: allow about two hours to slow cook the beans, stirring occasionally. I grilled my corn indoors on my stovetop grill and this took about 30 minutes, which I did while chopping all the other ingredients.
This recipe makes a big bowl, just perfect for picnics and parties. But don’t wait for a special occasion. This salsa will be good all week and can add spice and exotic south of the border flavors to simple meals.
Some of the best eating of the year happens right now, and most of the dishes I make take little or no fuss. This recipe is a lovely example of using fresh local ingredients and a few well-chosen extras to make a healthy summer dish—a perfect tribute to my favorite summer 2022 read: An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy & Grace by Tamar Adler.