Mexican Inspired Black Bean and Corn Salad

Mexican Inspired Black Bean and Corn Salad with Cilantro and Lime Vinaigrette

Inspiration for meals can come from many different places. This black bean and corn salad was inspired by the bunch of beautiful cilantro that came in my first vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture) box this season.

Fresh cilantro, also known as coriander

Cilantro is often used in Mexican food. So is corn.  I have some sweet, incredibly tasty corn in my freezer from a local farm.  The corn was processed at the farm right after it was picked last summer and it tastes just like corn on the cob at the peak of the season.  I knew I had to use it for this dish.

I chose black beans and bell peppers to round out the salad. For the vinaigrette, I chose limes.  Limes, cilantro and corn.  You can’t go wrong with that combination.  And so this Mexican inspired black bean and corn salad was born.

During the summer, I love serving salads as a meal. On a hot day, I don’t want to slave over a hot stove or turn on the oven.  Salads are a great alternative.  There is no need to be limited to leafy green salads, as this black bean and corn salad shows. It’s packed with protein and fibre, so makes for a satisfying meal.  I served mine in tortilla bowls, making it really feel like a meal.  Alternately, you could forego the tortilla bowls and serve it as a side to accompany grilled meat or tacos.

I highly recommend squeezing your own fresh lime juice for this vinaigrette.  I always keep a few limes in the fridge, because fresh lime juice has such a nice flavour compared to bottled.

A quick tip to get the most juice out of your citrus fruit, in this case, the limes.  Take your limes out of fridge a few hours before you need them (you can even take them out in the morning before going to work) to let them get to room temperature.  Before cutting limes to juice them, roll them between your palm and the counter, gently pushing down.  This technique will produce much more juice than if you use cold limes.

 

Recipe: Mexican Inspired Black Bean and Corn Salad

Black Bean and Corn Salad inspired by the flavours of Mexico

Lime Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup (60 mL) lime juice (from 2 to 3 large limes)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Squeeze lime juice into medium size bowl, removing any seeds. Add cumin, paprika, chili powder and salt. Whisk.
  2. While still whisking, gradually pour in olive oil and whisk until well blended.

 

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup corn kernels
  • 1 can (19 oz, 540 mL) black beans, no salt added
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced small
  • 4 green onions (scallions) white and green parts, finely chopped
  • 2 cups packed cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
  • Lime vinaigrette
  • Tortilla bowls, optional

Directions:

  1. If using frozen corn, add ½ cup water to small pot. Add corn and bring water to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and let corn cool to room temperature.
  2. In large bowl, add black beans, peppers, onions, cilantro and corn. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Stir lime vinaigrette and pour into salad bowl. Toss until all ingredients evenly coated.
  4. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours before serving, so that ingredients absorb flavour of vinaigrette.
  5. If serving as a main dish, serve salad in tortilla bowls.

 

My Family’s Favorite Pasta Sauce – Aarti’s Spiced Beef Ragu

I love pasta.  It has been a staple in my diet for as long as I can remember.  Tomato-based pasta sauce has always been something that I love.

Recipe Spiced Beef Ragu dinner supper

A couple of years ago, I was watching a television show where a chef was making a pasta sauce.  This particular recipe caught my eye because it was not the traditional Italian flavours.  The chef was Aarti Sequeira, and the flavours were Indian.  Although not a lover of Indian food, this recipe seemed appealing, in large part I think because of the way she described garam masala as being a “warm spice blend”, made with spices like cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and cardamom.  Cinnamon and cloves in a pasta sauce?  That sounded intriguing, and good.  As chef Aarti demonstrated the recipe, it also seemed to be easy to make, which is always a good thing in my view. 

It took a few months, but eventually I went to the website and obtained the recipe.  I tried it out for my family, and it was an instant hit.  They really loved it, even more than a traditional Italian style pasta sauce.  As a result, this recipe has become my family’s go-to pasta recipe.  I never go wrong with this one.  The reaction I get when I tell them I will be making this for dinner, as I did today, is always: “Oh yay, I love that pasta sauce!”

The website from which I got this recipe no longer exists, so I am sharing the recipe here with you.  I’ve made some minor modifications to it, but not any that alter the flavour of the original recipe.   

If you’ve never thought about trying pasta sauce with something other than Italian flavours before, you are missing out.  Although these are Indian flavours, this sauce is not hot and spicy; it is simply a wonderful blend of warm flavours, with ginger, cumin, and garam masala creating a surprising sense of comfort food, even though I did not grow up with any of these flavours in my food. 

family favorite tomato pasta sauce Indian flavours

Aarti Sequeira’s Spiced Beef Ragu

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (about half of a big one)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of minced fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala 
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can (796 mL or 28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • Small Pasta, like fusilli or shells

Directions

1. In a Dutch oven, warm olive oil over moderate heat until it’s shimmering. Add cumin seeds, and sauté for 30 seconds to a minute, until they’re fragrant and darken in color. Add onions with a good pinch of salt; sauté a few minutes, until softened and translucent.  Add garlic and ginger and sauté a minute longer.

2. Add the garam masala and paprika, and cook, stirring often for 30 seconds. This is called blooming: cooking spices in warm oil to wake them up and cook out their “rawness”.

3. Now add the beef with another pinch of salt, and cook, breaking up lumps until no longer pink. Then stir in tomato paste, and cook another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes. Stir, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, and cook, partially covered for 15 minutes. 

4. While that’s cooking, boil water for pasta and cook pasta.

5. Finish ragu with sugar and heavy cream. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Serve over pasta. 

 

Tips:  One can of tomato paste provides much more than two tablespoons.  In order not to waste the extra tomato paste, place one tablespoon-sized dollops of tomato paste onto a wax paper lined metal tray and place in freezer.  Once the tomato paste dollops are frozen, take them off the wax paper and put them in a labeled freezer bag.  Now you have pre-measured tomato paste, ready to use the next time a recipe calls for it.