Apron Optional: Black Bean Salad

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I want to say something. I’m going to put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don’t, send it right back: I love black beans. I also love the movie Anchorman, if you didn’t catch that. About a year ago, I sat down laptop in tow to watch the blessed film (of which I literally can recite every line) and find a recipe for black bean salad that was quick, easy and delicious. I don’t know why exactly, but I refused to rest until I found what I believed to be the perfect one. Perhaps I was inspired by Ron Burgundy and his suits, so fine they made Sinatra look like a hobo.

So I adapted this recipe from one I found about a year ago deep in the archives of the user comments on the Bush’s Beans website (I told you, I was a woman obsessed!). The recipe is relatively simple to make, as it really only involves chopping. This can be a bit time consuming especially if you are just starting out, but I strongly suggest you don’t rush the process. After all, the more fingers you lose, the less you will be able to try your hand at the recipes I post. Okay, bad pun, but seriously — please don’t chop off your finger(s).

To do the prep work, you are going to need a cutting board (the larger the better), a sharp knife, measuring cups, a colander, a can opener and a large mixing bowl. If you’re planning to serve it the same day, I would recommend nixing the mixing bowl and using whatever you plan to serve it in instead to avoid washing extra dishes. As I mentioned last Friday, it would be wise to place your onion in the freezer now for 10-15 minutes to eliminate some of the tear-inducing fumes.

First, open the cans of black beans and pour them into the colander over the sink. Running the beans under cold water, sift them around with your hand to get all of the extra juice off (if you haven’t washed your hands yet, now would be a good time to do so and I suggest not mentioning the oversight to any dinner guests). When all of the runoff water is clear, gently shake the colander to remove excess liquid and dump the beans into your bowl. Then, open the can of corn, drain out all of the liquid and pour them in the bowl, too.

Now, on to the chopping. Rinse off your bell pepper and cut it in vertical halves. Remove the stem, seeds, and white junk inside, carefully cutting around the edges if necessary. Place each half face down on the cutting board and make thin, parallel slices from top to bottom, keeping the pieces in place. Then, do the same thing going in the other direction to make tiny squares of pepper. You can cut them larger if that is your preference; I happen to think bell peppers are flavor bullies so I keep them small to avoid masking all of the other flavors. When you’re done, throw that in the bowl — this time with enthusiasm!

  

Next, chop the onion. You will only need a fourth of a cup, so there is absolutely no way you will need more than half of it for now. For detailed onion-chopping instructions, refer back to last week’s post, chopping the pieces small (the same size as the bell pepper or smaller). Once you have tackled that beast, chop up some of the sweet roasted pepper into pieces the same size as the bell pepper and onion. There is no exact count of pieces to cut, so I just throw them in the measuring cup as I go. If you want it to be a little sweeter, go for a full half cup. Add all of that to your bowl as well.

For the cilantro you don’t use the stems, so it’s now time for the arduous task of plucking all of the leaves off. You will need a full half cup, and because the leaves compact after they are chopped, you’re going to have to pluck a lot (you can still measure it out precut to get an idea of how much more you will need). It’s a mindless task, so feel free to crank up the best of the ‘90s (or whatever your preference) and jam a little while you work. Once you think you have enough, bunch it together into a pile on your cutting board and make parallel cuts (as if you are cutting into a loaf of bread) vertically and horizontally until the majority of the cilantro is chopped. Measure it out and chop more if necessary. Then pour it in with everything else.

With the queso fresco, all you really have to do is crumble it off of the block. The recipe calls for half a cup, but feel free to add more if you so desire — I probably will. Add it in with everything else.

Mix everything together and salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving and enjoy!

  

The great thing about this dish is that you can dress it up a bunch of different ways: If you want to add an extra kick of flavor, add a teaspoon of paprika and/or cumin or a teaspoon of cayenne pepper if you want a bit of heat. Mix and taste, adding a dash more if necessary. And if you REALLY want to add some heat, try adding some raw jalapeño, diced very small, following cutting instructions similar to that of the bell pepper. Be extremely careful not to touch your eyes during/afterward until you’ve washed them!

I like to serve it with lime wedges on the side so you can squeeze the juice on top. I usually eat it with meat and tortillas taco-style, with chips as a hearty dip, or on its own as a side dish.

Until next week, happy chopping — except your fingers.

Photos by Anastasia Garcia.