As a born and raised Texan, some version of bean salsa is a staple at every party, event and gathering. Known as Texas caviar, it usually features black-eyed peas, black beans and corn. It was never my thing, but it was standard buffet fare in the Lone Star State.
Fast forward to Memorial Day 2021 when we attended our first party since March 13, 2020. The energetic and enthusiastic hosts had an enormous spread of tempting appetizers and sides spread out in the kitchen and the grill was fired up and ready for the celebration. Each dish was thoughtfully labeled gluten-free, dairy-free and whatnot so everyone could pick and choose what they wanted without having to inquire as to the ingredients.
A Memorial Day Gathering
As usual, guests were gathered around the kitchen island as they chatted up old friends and made new friends while nibbling on assorted vegetables, dips and chips and we joined them. It wasn’t long before I spied a black bean and corn salsa in a restaurant-style storage container that caught my attention.
It looked similar but different. This black bean and corn salsa was dressed with a bright green sauce. I had never seen this before and I was intrigued so I asked the hostess a bit more about the recipe. She told me a friend of hers from Austin, Texas, shared this family recipe for Hill Country Salsa. This host loved the dish and adopted the recipe as her own.
Because I was curious, she told me more about the green sauce–a cilantro vinaigrette. She praised how the dish gets even better as it marinates. The key, she told me, was to make the recipe a day or two–or more–before serving. Then it would be packed with flavor and could be spooned over salads, used as a dip or eaten as a side dish. The versatility made it appealing, but the cilantro vinaigrette sold me because that was what is missing in the Texas caviar, which tends to be dry and dull in flavor.
The vinaigrette comes together easily in a blender. You will pour half over the beans and corn and toss to coat and then let it meld in the fridge. Reserve the remaining half of the vinaigrette in a jar and store it in the refrigerator as well. Depending on your tastes, you may want to drizzle in a bit more each day as it continues to meld. You will want it to be a little saucy but not wet. Use any leftover vinaigrette for a salad with grilled meat or protein of choice or as a dipping sauce for strips of jicama, bell pepper and carrots on a hot summer day.
Pass it On
Whether you are from Texas or Minnesota, where my friend is from, or New Mexico or New Jersey, this black bean and corn salsa with cilantro vinaigrette may become a new favorite in your casa. With a little chopping, blending and opening of cans, the dish will be ready in a jiffy. Let the flavors marry in the fridge for a day or two and my bet is that you too will adopt this dish as your own.
It seems that’s the way this recipe is passed on and I am happy to continue the tradition.
Black Bean and Corn Salsa with Cilantro Vinaigrette
Unlike its boring cousin Texas caviar, this black bean and corn salsa packs a punch of flavor and is loaded with textures and colorful ingredients that begs to be eaten. The cilantro vinaigrette brings it together and makes this dish something you won't want to live without.
For the cilantro vinaigrette
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 jalapeno seeds removed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 bunch green onions chopped
For the black bean and corn salsa
- 1 11 oz. can of black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 16 oz. can of corn or 2 cups frozen corn I used Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn
- 2 Roma tomatoes chopped
- 1/2 bunch green onions chopped
Place the first eight ingredients in the blender--cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, salt, jalapeno, garlic and half a bunch of green onions.
Blend together until the consistency is reminiscent of a salad dressing.
Place the beans, corn, tomatoes and remaining half a bunch of green onions in a big bowl.
Pour half of the cilantro vinaigrette over the beans, corn, tomatoes and green onions and stir well to combine. Reserve the remaining vinaigrette in a jar in the fridge.
Place the dressed black bean and corn salsa in the fridge to chill thoroughly. The longer it melds, the better it gets. If you do make this dish in advance and it melds for a day or two, taste it as you may want to add more of the cilantro vinaigrette to keep it moist.
When ready, serve with assorted chips, atop salad greens or as a side dish.
Refrigerate any leftovers.