Friday, May 31, 2013

Black Bean & Blue Corn Chopped Salad

I often get in a major rut with particular recipes, repeatedly making a certain dish well beyond the point where most people would get sick of it and move onto something else.  Case in point: I have made my Black Bean & Blue Corn Chopped Salad four times in the past five days.  But I can't seem to get enough of these flavors, so it seems silly not to prepare yet another bowlful of it when I already have the ingredients on hand.

Seriously, what’s not to love? Crisp hearts of romaine provide a base for a colorful riot of diced peppers, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, pepperjack cheese, scallions, and avocado.  A zingy chile-lime vinaigrette ties the ingredients all together, while a handful of crumbled blue corn tortilla chips push this salad over the top.


This has been a long-time favorite salad of mine, and I’ve foisted it on at least twenty different people this week.  It makes a satisfying solo meal, but I think it’s especially perfect for a big crowd of people, especially when that party takes place on the most stunning late spring night on a beautiful roof top.

My friend Hannah hosted a cello party the other night, having borrowed her upstairs neighbors' roof terrace for a few hours.  Most people would eagerly accept an invitation to a little cocktail soiree outside, but convincing six other cellists at the end of an arduous workweek to schlep their large instruments up five flights of stairs to the roof of a brownstone to read chamber music?  That’s impressive.  Yet Hannah has such an infectious enthusiasm that nobody could resist.

So that’s how more than twenty of us ended up on an Upper West Side rooftop listening to the entire New York City Ballet cello section rock out on arrangements of everything from Bach to Lady Gaga, including a particularly impressive 5-cello rendition of “Pulp Fiction”! The wine and laughter were both free-flowing throughout the evening, and it was one of the most delightful parties I’ve been to in years.


I was asked to bring a salad to supplement the wonderful spread of goodies that Hannah had laid out, and this southwestern chopped salad seemed to hit an appropriately festive note.  I made an enormous bowlful for the party, figuring that it’s always better to have too much rather than not enough.  But I guess everyone really worked up an appetite for there wasn’t a single bite of it left by the end of the evening.  I guess I’m not the only one who finds this salad particularly crave-worthy.


One Year Ago: Otto Mania
Two Years Ago: Browned Butter Brownies
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Four Years Ago: Northwest Seafood Ceviche

This colorful chopped salad with a southwestern flavor was inspired by one of my favorite childhood salads from the Crocodile Café in L.A. Instead of frying up blue corn tortillas and adding the crispy strips to the salad, I crumble a handful of blue corn tortilla chips over the salad just before serving which adds a nice bit of crunchy texture.  Let this recipe be a springboard for your imagination, adding or subtracting ingredients according to your taste and whatever you have on hand.

For the dressing:
The zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder (or use your favorite chili powder)
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
1 bunch romaine hearts, leaves washed and patted dry
1 red pepper, cut into ½-inch dice
1 yellow pepper, cut into ½-inch dice
1 cup baby grape tomatoes, quartered
½ a large hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded, cut into ½-inch dice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen white kernel corn, cooked according to package directions till just tender-crisp
4 oz. pepper jack cheese, diced
1 avocado, cut into ½-inch dice
Several handfuls of blue corn tortilla chips, crushed

Whisk together the lime zest and juice, mustard and chile powder in a small bowl.  Add the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking until emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chop the romaine hearts into bite-sized pieces and place in a large salad bowl.  Add the diced peppers, tomatoes, scallions and cilantro.  Add the black beans, corn, pepper jack cheese and avocado.  Toss with the dressing, combining thoroughly.  Just before serving, add the crushed blue corn tortilla chips and toss again.

Serves 4 as a main course salad, 6 as a starter salad.

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