Beans are wonderful. They're one of the few foods I can think of that are almost as good in their canned form as they are when you prepare them yourself, and while it's as easy as pie to cook dried beans, having a few cans in the pantry almost guarantees that you'll never be out of quick dinner options.
Among the many varieties of beans, black beans are pretty near the top of my list of favorites. They're tasty, they're pretty (yes, that's important), and they work well with a wide variety of other ingredients.
One of the simplest things you can do with a can (or two) of black beans is make a quick and tasty salsa. The variations on this theme are nearly endless, and apart from doing a bit of slicing and dicing, the preparation is not only simple, but it's a great do-ahead.
Basic Black Bean Salsa
- 2 15.5-ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- 1 medium ripe tomato, roughly diced
- 3 tbs. olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- ¼ - ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sour cream
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving at room temperature. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream.
And now for the good part: the variations - because cooking is all about flexibility and choice and what appeals to you and the people you cook for. So, think of all the things you can add to this basic recipe, in any combination you like:
- A ripe avocado, chopped
- 1 cup of corn kernels (you can use fresh or frozen here; if you use fresh, try roasting it on the grill before removing it from the cobs)
- Diced peppers, red or green, hot or sweet (I like diced jalapenos myself)
- Diced ripe mango
- Sliced scallions
You can omit the onion and/or the tomato from the basic recipe, and if cilantro ain't your thing (I know a few people who really dislike it), a handful of chopped parsley will add some flavor and color in its place.
Black bean salsa makes a wonderful accompaniment to many meals, especially more casual, warm weather fare. Any grilled meats (or fish) will welcome a bowl of this on the table, and it can also form the basis for a more substantial salad if you rest it on a bed of greens and add some strips of grilled chicken breast or grilled shrimp. Or you can top it with some shredded jack cheese and/or roll it up in a soft taco.
Experiment with the seasonings a bit when you add more ingredients; you might find that you like a bit more olive oil or lime juice, and of course the amounts of the various other ingredients are totally a matter of personal taste (and availability).